Grezza makes case for defence

Graham Alexander
Graham Alexander

Graham Alexander believes victory over leaders Oxford United would be the perfect way to bounce back from Tuesday’s disappointment at Accrington.

Town can regain top spot in League Two if they beat Chris Wilder’s Us, but Alexander knows there will need to be much improvement over the performance in that 2-0 defeat at the Crown Ground.

It’s another top of the table showdown at Highbury and Alexander is relishing the challenge.

He told The Gazette: “It’s a big game – two teams at the top and looking to stay there.

“We’ll be looking to bounce back from Tuesday.

“It was a big disappointment and it was a game we shouldn’t have lost.

“We haven’t got anybody to blame but ourselves, so we’ve got to address the issues and take all the positives into Saturday. It will be a very hard game against opponents who are flying.”

Six goals conceded in two games have proved costly for Fleetwood, who almost threw it away last weekend against Mansfield and capitulated late on at Accrington.

Alexander knows his team can’t afford to rely on their goalscoring record, the strongest in the division, and must be more solid this weekend.

“It’s a concern,” said Alexander. “It’s something we don’t want to do (tighten up at the back). It puts us under immense pressure to score a lot of goals.

“We have scored a lot of goals but we can’t rely on that.

“We have to have the balance between all the attacking abilities we have and a strong defensive unit and being hard to beat. For the last couple of games we haven’t been that.

“That’s what disappointed us the most, because over the last three games we should probably have won one and drawn two, but we’ve won one and lost two.

“That’s the main thing we have to concentrate on and make sure we get right.”

Town have had precious little time to tackle the issue of errors at the back since Tuesday. But former defender Alexander insists the problem is one which can’t be ignored, dedicating yesterday’s training sessions to finding a solution.

“We’ve had to work on the issue of goals conceded,” he said.

“We have to work on what is in front of us. We can’t brush it under the carpet.

“We’re trying to improve the players as individuals and as a team.

“We can’t just concentrate on the positives, the good stuff we do – we’ve got to make sure we’re not conceding silly goals. We’ve got to cut out the little mistakes.”

Town struggled at Highbury at the start of the season but their form in front of their home fans has improved of late, boosted by good wins in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Fleetwood have scored 13 goals in their last three Highbury outings but, according to Alexander, there’s still room for improvement.

He said: “We’ve improved at home in terms of scoring goals and winning games.

“But there’s still a lot of things we need to improve.

“I know we’ll create plenty of chances but a couple of the goals we’ve conceded have been poor – there’s no other word for it – and I think it ends up putting more pressure on our attacking players.

“They might end up snatching at things, not taking chances when the come along.

We win and lose as a unit. We won’t blame one player or one part of the team but we have to become better. There’s no doubt about that and that’s what we’ve been addressing.”

Chris Wilder’s Us side will be without a number of influential players, particularly in midfield.

Jonathan Meades (ankle), Jake Wright (hamstring), Dean Smalley (groin), Alfie Potter (ankle), Andrew Whing (groin) and Sean Rigg (hamstring) are all likely to miss out.

Fleetwood are missing only strikers David Ball and Jamille Matt, with Nathan Tyson drafted in from Blackpool as cover.

Alexander, for his part, is keen to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s late drama, a 94th- minute penalty sealing victory over Mansfield.

He said: “We have to make sure we get both sides of our game right.

“Winning the last home game 5-4 was fantastic for everybody apart from us as a staff and the defenders because we have a personal pride in our jobs. We can’t be conceding four at home.

“Oxford will be a team high on confidence, with two very good centre forwards.

“They’ve got good players throughout the team. It will be tough, no doubt, but we are desperate to put things right against a good opponent.”

And, despite Town being able to reclaim top spot, the only focus for Alexander right now is staying with the leading pack.

“I think the motivation has to be to stay with the group at the top,” he said.

“We have done that all season and we want to make sure we remain there.

“There have been so many different leaders this season,

“You can’t get carried away. You can’t be up and down.

“We get up and down on the results, that’s the main thing. We just want to win the game.

“If we win and everybody else wins, it doesn’t matter. We’ve won our game and that’s the most we can do.”