A look ahead to tomorrow's game
On 22 September Bristol Rovers played out a 0-0 draw in their first ever meeting with Fleetwood Town, with Neil Etheridge making his Rovers debut. To date this has been Rovers’ only clean sheet of the season.
This weekend the Gas travel up the Lancashire coast Highbury Stadium to take on the Cod Army.
In its current form Fleetwood Town has only existed since 1997 when it joined Division One of the North West Counties Football League (now the tenth tier of the English League system).
The club was promoted to the Premier Division of the North West Counties League in 1999 and renamed Fleetwood Town F.C. in 2002. Successive promotions as North West Counties League champions in 2005 and Northern Premier League First Division runners-up in 2006 saw the club reach the Northern Premier League Premier Division. 2007-08 Fleetwood won the Northern Premier League, gaining promotion to the Conference North.
Fleetwood's 2011–12 season was their most successful ever as they went on a 29-game unbeaten run, and were became champions with two games remaining, giving them promotion to the Football League for the first time.
Fleetwood currently sit in the final play-off place and now have Graham Alexander in charge after the surprise decision to remove long-serving boss Micky Mellon on the first day of December.
So far there have been mixed results under Alexander's leadership and it's only one win for the Cod Army in their previous five home games.
In their latest game, away to Northampton at Sixfields, the home side took a 7th minute lead when Jake Robinson headed home Chris Hackett's centre for his first of the game. He added his second, four minutes before half-time with a low drive from the edge of the box, before Clive Platt killed the game off 8 minutes into the second half with a strike from close range.
Jamie Allen blasted a 90th minute consolation for the visitors, who lost their five-game unbeaten run.
Speaking after the game Town Boss Graham Alexander said, “It was a disappointing. Disappointing more for the fact we didn’t play like ourselves in the first half. We got sucked into a game which doesn’t suit the players we have, we like to play football.
“Second half we did a lot better, we got the ball down and passed it through midfield and we played some good stuff but it wasn’t enough to get back into the game. We conceded goals at some bad times and that puts you on the back foot.
“You’re going to get crosses and you’re going to get things coming into the box, and you have to deal with it. We didn’t deal with it. We didn’t deal with the initial attack either so it’s one of those we’ll look at on the video, we’ll speak to the team and to the individuals involved and we’ll try to fix it.
"It’s not going to be the only time we come under that kind of pressure in attack, we know that and we have to deal with it better than we did against Northampton.”
Talking about the Cobbler’s physical approach to the game Alexander commented, “What can you do? Throws are coming in from 40 yards outside your box, crosses are coming in, things are going on around the goal, and you have to deal with it. It’s a style of football that’s there and it’s been successful for them. Hats off to them.”
Talking about the challenge facing his team this week he said, “A lot of teams haven’t had a good time against Gillingham so that’s no real barometer of their position. Gillingham are a very good team and Bristol Rovers are an opponent who, on paper, we should beat.”
Alexander wasn’t in charge for the goalless draw in September. However, the Fleetwood boss will be looking to go one better but won’t under estimate the opposition.
“What I’ve seen is anyone in this division can beat anyone else. You’ve seen Barnet rise up the league in the past few weeks because they’ve put a string of results together. We have to make sure we are not the start of a Bristol Rovers turnaround in form.
"If we don’t show them the respect they deserve then that could happen. We will show them all the respect they deserve. That means we must have our house in order to earn three points. It’s a big game for us.
“John Ward has been around for a very long time and I’ve come across him a few times in my career playing against his teams” said Alexander. “He knows this division and his footballers and he knows how to organise them. He’s only been there a short space of time but I’m sure his impact is working on the team.
“We need to do the things right from minute one. We have to make sure we are professional and play at our maximum. If we don’t play at our maximum then we won’t get the correct result. Whoever we play we look to win but we must put our game right first and that’s what we must do.
“It’s important to put our house in order and get our home form going. Home form has probably been the most disappointing aspect of the season. Our home form doesn’t match our expectations and that is something we have to address.”
Latest news from Highbury is that Town look to have secured the services of Kidderminster's Jamille Matt on Friday, subject to the striker passing a medical. The 22-year-old only signed a new contract with Harriers on 1 January.
A scorer of eight goals in eight league games this season, Matt is likely to make his debut on Saturday. Matt only returned to action in November, having not played since February because of issues over his work permit.
John Ward will be anxious for his team to bounce back from the disappointment of the 2-0 home defeat to Gillingham. An away win at Fleetwood would give his team a real boost.
By Gerry Prewett