MATCH REPORT: Portsmouth 4 Fleetwood 1
It was a day to forget for Fleetwood Town as they suffered their heaviest defeat in a year at Fratton Park.
Ironically the last time Town shipped four was against the MK Dons at Highbury in September 2016 now fast forward a year and several hundreds of miles down the coast to Portsmouth’s Fratton Park for Town’s defence to be breached by four once more.
Despite the eventual scoreline Fleetwood did put up a fight at Portsmouth though they paid the price for missed chances, honesty and their creaky defending in the box.
After leaking seven goals in their previous three games head coach Uwe Rosler made changes to the back line as he brought skipper Nathan Pond back into the side for Baily Cargill with George Glendon replacing Jack Sowerby in midfield as he went for a 3-5-2 formation.
Town should have been ahead just minutes into the game at Fratton Park as Cian Bolger uncharacteristically wasted a free header in the box as he nodded Glendon’s corner from the left over the bar.
Brett Pitman had curled an effort just past the right post for Portsmouth as he showed a flash of what was to come.
The first half looked to be finishing 0-0 with Fleetwood enjoying a lot of possession but lacking a bit of ingenuity in the final third with the hosts impressively solid and organised.
But as the sunshine made way for gloomy skies the tide turned in Portsmouth’s favour.
Nathan Thompson raced down the right flank and his deep cross beat every white shirt with Brett Pitman just nipping in behind Bolger at the back stick with a brave header.
Pitman did not just get a goal but also a bloodied nose as Bolger’s boot clattered into his face as he tried desperately to nick the ball away from the forward. Unfortunately Pitman got their first in the 41st minute, though after Bolger’s boot he had to leave the field early for treatment.
Pitman returned for the second half with a bandaged nose with Fleetwood boss Rosler making a shift at half-time.
He replaced Aiden O’Neill who had given the ball away too often in the first 45 with Conor McAleny.
McAleny had been out of action since injuring his ankle in Town’s 1-0 win at Northampton but made his big return as Rosler shifted from 3--5-2 to 3-4-3 with the forward joining Jordy Hiwula and Devante Cole up top.
The move gave Town creativity, pace and flair in the final third with Rosler’s side getting their goal shortly after the break.
Amari’i Bell had enjoyed much joy on the left flank going forward during the first 45 and once again bombed down the line.
It was his good work that eventually lead to Glendon getting on the ball on the left, his inch-perfect cross found Lewie Coyle at the back stick and his knock-down was thundered home by Devante Cole who volleyed in a leveller.
The momentum was with Town but a couple of key moments did not go their way.
Fleetwood’s defending in the box continues to plague them and Jamal Lowe could not believe his luck as a corner from the right fell perfectly to him unmarked at the back still as he nodded the hosts ahead in the 57th minute.
Cole suffered for his honesty as he sprinted through on goal, he was clearly tripped by Christian Burgess in the box but he rode the tackle to try and scored and flashed the ball wide of the right stick from an angle on the left.
Referee Dean Whitestone should have brought play back and awarded Town a spot-kick but the whistle never came leaving Rosler livid on the touchline.
McAleny worryingly went down holding his ankle but after shaking that off he popped up with a chance that six weeks ago prior to his injury he would most probably have buried.
The forward found space on the right but his low, fierce strike just fizzed past the post.
Rosler threw Cargill on for Bolger to add balance to the side but he was outfoxed by Lowe who raced past him in the box to smash the ball home from an impossible angle despite skipper Pond’s last ditch dive as Cairns was beaten at his near post in the 70th minute.
There was no way back for Town and a bandaged up Pitman ensured that as he picked the ball up in acres of space outside the box and sublimely curled the ball home with just 12 minutes remaining.
But there was still time for things to go from bad to worse for Fleetwood as Kyle Dempsey picked up a second yellow for a foul on Ben Close five minutes from time as Town ended a bad day at their fellow coastal club with 10-men.
Fleetwood: Cairns, Eastham, Pond, Bolger (Cargill, 59), Coyle, Dempsey, Glendon, O’Neill (McAleny, 46, Bell, Hiwula (Hunter, 72), Cole. Subs not used: Neal, Grant, Burns, Godswill.
Portsmouth: McGee, Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, McCrory (Donohue, , Close, O’Keefe, Lowe, Pitman, Kennedy, Chaplin. Subs: Bass, Talbot, Donohue, Evans, Naismith, Main, Hawkins.
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 17192 (115 Fleetwood)