Yesterday, attention moved away from the League, and towards the first FA Cup tie of the season and an away trip to Field Mill where Fleetwood faced fellow Blue Square Bet Premier opposition Mansfield Town.
Talk amongst the Fleetwood journalists pre match centred around what kind of team Micky Mellon would name, or whether the three loan signings (Jackson, Wassmer and Wilson) would be made available for selection by their parent clubs, whether Magno Vieira would make a welcome return from the hamstring injury he picked up at Stockport over a month ago, and whether Jamie McGuire would feature in the team or be rested ahead of the trip to Luton Town next week. The answers to those questions only became apparent as the team sheets were distributed throughout the press box at 2:30.
The three loan players hadn’t been granted permission to play, Magno returned to the squad but only in a substitutes capacity and Jamie McGuire did feature in the starting line up. It was, surprisingly, a very attacking line up for Fleetwood with Vardy, Brodie, Seddon and Mangan all making the starting XI.
Yesterday's team sheet showing a very attacking starting XI for Fleetwood
Early action suggested that The Cods were looking to kill the game off as early as possible, with Richard Brodie having a 5th minute goal correctly chalked off for offside. It all sprang from a free kick by Milligan from the left hand edge of the Mansfield penalty area, he floated it over the entire Mansfield defence and goal keeper, and with Brodie lurking – unmarked – at the back post tapped the ball home from 2 yards. Correctly, the linesman on the near touchline (and partially out of view of this rather short reporter) put his flag up to disallow the goal. It was a sign of the attacking intent from Fleetwood, and an early wake up call for the Stags defence and the vociferous home support behind the press box.
Matt Green, the striker on loan from Oxford United, looked dangerous in attack for the Stags. Putting pressure on the Fleetwood back line, he and Anthony Howell were able to breeze past Steve McNulty at will. Only heavy touches in dangerous areas and wayward finishing denied the home side the lead. On one of the occasions that Howell outpaced McNulty, a combination of Junior Brown with his lightning pace and Scott Davies thwarted his attempt.
But of more concern in the aftermath of the opportunity, was the injury sustained by Brown, who had collided the Fleetwood goalkeeper. The treatment received from physio Ian Liversedge allowed the left back to carry on, but only for a few minutes. So another injury for Junior Brown, and another body in the treatment room at the team’s Fylde RUFC training base. Alan Goodall, who spent a period on trial with the Stags during pre season, replaced the luckless Brown.
Gareth Seddon then managed to clip the outside of the right post from a 20 yard shot. His effort would have beaten Alan Marriott in the Mansfield goal, had it have been a couple of inches or so to the left.
But when Fleetwood took the lead, it was a strike of superb quality. Jamie Milligan, widely regarded as Town’s set piece specialist, curled a most sumptuous free kick in to the top corner of Marriott’s goal from the edge of the penalty area. It was the midfielder’s 3rd goal of the season, and came at the perfect time for the visitors – 2 minutes before half time.
Milligan's free kick hits the back of the net
Half time showed another substitution for Fleetwood. Richard Brodie, who received a torrid reception from the home fans throughout the first half, was withdrawn before his temper got the better of him. On in his place came Magno Vieira, who hit a 15 minute hat trick the last time he graced the Field Mill turf, in a 5-2 league win last season.
But it was Fleetwood that were on the back foot in the second half, and it was Ross Dyer who gave the home side a deserved equaliser. Louis Moult, signed on loan from Stoke City in midweek, crossed from the right hand side. His ball dissected the entire Fleetwood back line, as Jamie Milligan’s had in the first half, and the Mansfield midfielder had the simple task of tapping in at the back post.
Goal scorer Dyer challenges Pond & Goodall
It was no more than the home side deserved, but Fleetwood almost hit back immediately. A floated ball from half way found Nathan Pond unmarked. His header from all of 18 yards clipped the top of the Mansfield cross bar on its way out for a goal kick.
Jamie Vardy, who was well marshalled by Ben Futcher throughout the match, managed to wriggle free of his marker. As has been customary for the attacker, he headed straight into the heart of the penalty area. Under normal circumstances his shot from the one-on-one would have nestled into the bottom corner, but it wasn’t to be this time. Marriott raced out to meet the Fleetwood striker, whilst narrowing the angle, and somehow got the faintest of touches onto Vardy’s shot to send the ball over the cross bar. I’m not sure, even now, what part of the body Marriott used to stop the Fleetwood striker, but it was a magnificent save none the less.
Ben Futcher headed wide from a Moult cross, before Magno Vieira dragged a shot wide of the far post late on, when he would normally have at least had a shot on target.
So the game finished in a 1-1 draw, which I think was a fair result for both teams, and will square up at Highbury on Tuesday evening in the replay.
The winner of the replay at Highbury will host League One side Wycombe Wanderers. The Adams Park side won automatic promotion from League Two last season, but are currently languishing in 23rd place following a difficult start to the season.
The 1st Round Proper tie is due to be played on the weekend of the 12th/13th November.
Mansfield: Marriott (GK), Riley, Green, Murray (C), Bolland, Dyer, O’Neill, Sutton, Howell, Meikle, Futcher
Subs: Redmond, Connor, Bell, Todd, Day, Somes, Moult
Goal: Dyer (69)
Fleetwood: Davies (GK), Beeley, McNulty (C), Pond, J Brown (Goodall), Seddon, Milligan, McGuire, Mangan (Clancy), Vardy, Brodie (Vieira)
Subs: Clancy, Goodall, Vieira, Cox, Briggs, S Brown, St Louis-Hamilton (GK)
Goal: Milligan (43)
Referee: Mr Stephen Martin (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 1725 (135 from Fleetwood)
My full time report on The Bay can be heard here.