MATCH REPORT: Northampton 0 Fleetwood 1
Super-sub Devante Cole's 75th minute strike sealed a 1-0 win for Fleetwood Town as they recorded their first ever victory at Northampton's Sixfields Stadium.
Cole was sent clear by fellow substitute Aiden O’Neill and coolly lifted the ball over David Cornell as Town’s perfect start to the new League One season.
Though Cole grabs the headlines the victory owed much to a spectacular triple save by Alex Cairns who thwarted Northampton three times in quick-succession from close range.
Fleetwood Town boss Uwe Rosler had dropped striker Ashley Hunter from the match day squad for the League One clash at Northampton.
Hunter started in Town’s 2-1 extra-time League Cup defeat to Carlisle on Tuesday but was brought off in the 61st minute and is not understood not to be injured.
Rosler hinted their would be repercussions from that game in the post-match press as he stated: “I think opportunities for one or two will be coming less.
“I have to say that, they have to convince me in training, with the development squad games that they are ready on Tuesday we had too many players on the pitch that struggled with the physicality, with the league football.”
One player who has impressed in those development squad games in young striker Ashley Nadesan who scored twice for Paul Murray’s side in the 4-1 win over Morecambe at Poolfoot Farm on Wednesday.
After that brace he was promoted to the substitutes bench for the clash against the Cobblers.
His last appearance on the bench was for Town’s 3-1 win at Oxford in April last season but he has yet to make his football league debut and will still have to wait as he was an unused sub.
In that same press conference were he said chances for some would be limited Rosler also urged his men to ‘walk through an open door’.
A phrase eluding to the fact that a number of fringe players were given starts against Carlisle but did not do enough to tear a starting shirt off any of the 11 that started on the opening day against Rotherham.
But after that rally cry all three of Fleetwood’s substitutes Wes Burns, goalscorer Cole and the man who teed him up for the winner O’Neill all answered that call to arms with strong performances.
It was an electric start from Fleetwood as Glendon’s corner from the right was nodded towards the bottom corner by Bolger but his effort was cleared off the line with Jordy Hiwula looming.
Hiwula twice went close soon after but his first touch was poor after he found himself in a dangerous position with a fierce curling effort from distance just batted away by Cornell.
After that blistering opening spell Northampton finally woke up and it was Long who looked a constant threat with something to prove against his old club, his angled effort was tipped away and he nearly outfoxed old team-mate Cairns as he pounced on a stray ball out from the back but he was just ushered out of play by recovering skipper Pond who blocked his eventual effort.
The Cobblers always looked a threat on set-pieces with Yaser Kasim’s dizzying deliveries causing carnage time and time again but Bobby Grant was on hand to nod away a 25-yard set-piece as the hosts grew in confidence.
Town were rocked by a knock to Conor McAleny with the star summer signing picking up an impact injury to the back of his right ankle after a strong challenge by Matt Crooks.
And on the stroke of half-time Cairns popped up with that triple stop. The shot-stopper showed his cat-like reflexes as he tipped away two Aaaron Pierre efforts and a Billy Waters effort within the space of a heart-stopping 10 seconds to ensure Fleetwood went into the break all square.
Rosler made a change at the break to add the physicality of Aiden O’Neill in place of George Glendon in the middle of the park.
Town were on the ropes at the end of the first half but bounced back in the second half with a calmer and more astute footing with Cairns a virtual bystander for the second half as the Cobblers added pressure but lacked bite as Town’s defence cut out most of their attacks.
Wes Burns had come off the bench for McAleny and looked back to the player that had a devastating loan spell at Highbury at the end of the 2015-16 season but he wasted a golden opportunity to break his year-long goal duck as he was sent through on goal but Pierre recovered to nick it off his toes.
Cole entered the fray in the 67th minute but it was his old team mate Long who continued to threaten up the other end as he outfoxed Eastham on the right before arrowing towards goal but he lofted the ball over the bar from a tight angle on the right.
Town had looked sharp on the counter all game and it was a piece of pressing that helped them get that all important goal in the 75th minute.
O’Neill won the ball back deep in Northampton’s half before quickly releasing Cole to sprint clear, he raced towards Cornell and coolly lifted the ball over the keeper to give Town the lead.
Northampton piled on the pressure in the search for a leveller but Town’s defence remained rock solid as they ground out another clean sheet and another three points.
Fleetwood: Cairns, Bolger, Pond, Eastham, Coyle, Dempsey, Glendon (O’Neill, 46), Bell, Grant, Hiwula, McAleny (Burns, 37). Subs not used: Neal, Godswill, Nadesan, Schwabl.
Northampton: Cornell, Buchanan, Kasim (McWilliams, 74) Taylor, Waters, Revell, Pierre, Phillips (Moloney, 74), Long, Crooks, Poole (Richards, 90). Subs not used: Lobjoit, Bowditch, Goff, Taylor.
Referee: Brett Huxtable.