Fleetwood Town 3, Tranmere Rovers 3. Defensive frailties will surely be at the forefront of Micky Mellon’s pre-season thinking, as Fleetwood Town twice surrendered a two-goal advantage to draw with Tranmere Rovers.
The Fleetwood manager’s former club, League One survivors last term, posed another tough test for the Cod Army ahead of their first season in the Football League.
But, buoyed by a 4-0 victory over Kilmarnock in midweek, confidence was high ahead of the Highbury clash and Town’s bright start, in the wake of a summer thunderstorm, was rewarded after just 10 minutes, thanks to a well-engineered breakaway.
Scott Davies in the Fleetwood goal had been alert to turn Jonathan Tehoue’s stinging shot over the bar.
Joe Thompson’s corner was too deep for Tranmere to capitalise from the set piece, Town turning defence to attack in the blink of an eye.
Shaun Beeley and new signing David Ball combined well down the right channel, feeding the ball into the path of Barry Nicholson, the former North End man clinical in his finish to open his Fleetwood account.
With Tranmere pressing for an equaliser, and almost grabbing one when Tehoue’s point-blank shot came back off the angle, Town stole a second just after the quarter hour mark.
Scott Davies launched a long punt upfield, the ball falling perfectly for Ball, who powered his way into the box.
The woodwork provided Fleetwood a helping hand for the second time in two minutes, as his shot ricocheted off the back post and past Owain Fon Williams.
It would prove to be Ball’s last involvement in the game, the former Posh man replaced by Danny Rose, following a tough challenge on the edge of the Rovers area.
With Fleetwood adjusting to accommodate a four-man midfield, Youl Mawene, Steve McNulty, Shaun Beeley and Dean Howell in the Fleetwood defence seemed to have the measure of the visitors – right up to the point they conceded from a Tranmere corner.
Nobody picked up the run of Zoumana Bakayogo at the back post, the big forward’s header unstoppable.
Jon Parkin had two good chances to extend Fleetwood’s lead, hitting the woodwork from distance on the half-hour mark and, with five minutes remaining, sending a blistering, dipping shot narrowly over the bar.
But, as the whistle blew, Fleetwood led by the narrowest of margins.
After the break, the home side did manage to restore their two goal advantage, Parkin’s cross finding Andy Mangan, whose header was judged to have crossed the line.
It lasted little more than a minute, Bakayogo’s cross from an attacking throw met by defender Ash Taylor, given too much room inside the Fleetwood box to head home.
A triple substitution injected new life into the visitors who began pouring pressure on substitute Nathan Pond. Mawene’s last ditch tackle spared a few blushes after Pond found himself robbed by Tehoue.
But there was nobody to provided cover with 15 minutes to play when Tehoue brushed Pond aside to go clear, his shot low and powerful across Davies and into the back of the net. A bucket full of late substitutions brought an end to the game as a contest, Parkin’s deflected late strike the best of the closing efforts.
Seven goals in two games will provide some relief for those concerned about Town’s offensive arsenal ahead of kick off a week today against Nottingham Forest.
The priority now must be to cut out those costly errors at the back, before the results start to count.
Fleetwood: Davies, Mawene, Howell, McNulty (c) (Pond 45), Nicholson, McGuire (Milligan 73), Parkin, Kinsella (McLaughlin 83), Mangan, Beeley, Ball (Rose 22). Subs not used: Goodall, Maxwell, Crowther, Titchiner, Branco
Tranmere: For Williams, Holmes, Black, Taylor, Chilvers ( Akpa Akrpro 60), Power (Wallace 60), Thompson (Mooney 79), Harrison (c) (Palmer 83), Cassidy (McChrystal 60). Tehoue, Bakayogo (Bell-Baggie 82)
Subs not used: Kay
Referee: Craig Pawson
FLEETWOOD Town, making their bow in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, will play one of Tranmere, Accrington, Carlisle, Fleetwood, Morecambe, Port Vale, Preston North End or Rochdale in the first round of the 2012-13 competition.
The draw for this northern section and the rest of the competition will take place on August 18 on the Soccer AM programme on Sky Sports.