OPINION: Fleetwood Town 2 AFC Wimbledon 1

Josh Morris celebrates his goal
Josh Morris celebrates his goal

Paddy Madden does not want a super-sub tag to stick – but after his match winning stint, it does not seem he will warming that bench any time soon.

With 19 goals last season, it was a surprise to see the Irishman on the bench for Town’s opening day 3-1 victory at Peterborough United.
He played his part in that win with a fine cameo but it was in Town’s hour of need in swirling wind and rain that Madden showed just why he deserves to be one of the first names on that teamsheet.
While you could not blame Joey Barton for sticking with that same XI that dispatched Peterborough, it was that second-half showing, fuelled by the introduction of Madden, that really saw flashes of what this Fleetwood Town team could be all about.
Nobody at Highbury from a Town point of view could begrudge the money they dished out to watch that game in the second half.
The players battling the elements gave their all and also played some of the best attacking football seen in years.
The Dons had flooded the midfield in the first half and stopped Paul Coutts pulling the strings in the engine room.
Conor McAleny had a seventh minute penalty appeal when, after his first effort came back to him, his second looked goalbound until Terell Thomas – and what looked like an arm – stopped it.
The reaction of the players said it all but referee Tom Nield was not having it.
It was to be an eventful day for the official with a dubious booking for Jordan Rossiter as well as a number of questionable decisions – and both sets of fans let him know about it.
Kwesi Appiah had already had one goal ruled out for offside but Town did not heed the warning.
Work still needs to be done from a defensive point of view with the goal that put the visitors ahead on 26 minutes one that could – and should – have been stopped.
Harrison Biggins nodded an aerial ball straight to Anthony Hartigan, leaving Town on the back foot and, ultimately, off-balance.
Joe Pigott got the better of Rossiter to feed Luke O’Neill on the right and Danny Andrew was too slow to close him down before a combination of the wind and Harry Souttar’s indecision set the seal on proceedings.
The defender was caught off-guard by the flight of the ball in the winds with Appiah nipping in to nod past Alex Cairns.
The Dons should have been 2-0 up minutes later after Paul Kalambayi caught out Peter Clarke and raced forward, sliding the ball over to the right and into the path of Appiah with just Souttar and Cairns ahead.
As the red and white shirts streamed back, Appiah fizzed the ball back to his team-mate but he fluffed his lines and fired way off target.
Perhaps it would have been wiser to start with Ash Eastham, a man who knows the temperament of the Fylde coast weather, but hindsight is a great thing.
It turned out for Town that attack was the best form of defence.
The introduction of Madden (right) did the job but it was not just about his arrival.
It freed up the forward line and allowed McAleny, Josh Morris and Wes Burns to make an impact.
Restricted in the first half as the Dons blocked up the middle, Barton switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 and it would pay dividends.
The move allowed McAleny to get on the ball in the pockets, and though he once again did not score, that is not the point.
It was one of his best games in a Town shirt and he was a constant thorn in the Dons’ side.
The new formation too allowed Rossiter and Coutts to get a foothold and the leveller arrived on 56 minutes.
Lewie Coyle’s throw found Coutts as a neat one-two opened up the pitch.
A series of one-touch passing then toppled the Dons as Burns’ perfectly weighted ball across the six-yard box found Madden, who did not need asking twice.
Nine minutes later and they were in front.
Souttar had seen his effort cleared off the line by Pigott but there was to be no respite for the visitors.
Madden nodded the ball back across goal to Burns, who found Morris and the wind did the rest in helping his cross into the net.
Clarke tore away claiming the goal but Morris’ cross from the right dropped just ahead of the defender and outfoxed the keeper to fly home.
There could have been another goal for Barton’s players with Morris, again, the architect.
This time, he fed Madden on the right with Burns hogging the penalty spot and McAleny also making his way into the six-yard box.
Morris did not stop his sprint, so when Madden’s strike was parried, he was there for the follow-up.
Though he could not divert it goalbound, the ball fell to McAleny who just curled his effort over the bar.
He needs a goal but again, like at Peterborough seven days earlier, he played a key role in Town’s attacking play.
Morris had another chance as Town kept pushing for a third, and when he made way, Ash Hunter came on to cause more headaches and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.
Last season, Town had to wait until game 45 to come back from conceding first to win a game.
This season, it only took them two games to do so and a brave tactical shift from Barton paid dividends.
He should be applauded for that gamble.
But if that all-out attack of the second-half continues, then we are in for some scintillating football this season.