Fleetwood Town FC make it sixteen league wins from sixteen games after a 2-1 win over fierce rivals Quilligans. A point from Wednesday night's away game against the Mortgage Shop will now be enough to secure the Premier Division title.
A year ago to the very day Fleetwood Town travelled to play Quilligans at Prebonds needing a win to finish second in the Premier Division. They couldn't manage it and a 1-1 draw was good enough for the home team to secure runners up spot behind the Old Vic.
At the start of today's game the sides were level on points but Fleetwood had three games in hand. Last week Fleetwood manager Mick Kerr told me he'd be happy if his side came away with a point from today's fixture. Quilligans really had to win today to have even the slightest hope of winning the league but that aside there was also the matter of Fleetwood's 100% league record that was at stake. There's always a lot of pride involved in matches between these two, no matter what the circumstances, so we were always likely to get a closely fought encounter and so it proved.
The decent sized crowd had to suffer a 25 minute delay to the kick off due to Quilligans mislaying the kit but referee Mr Gow finally got the game underway with Quilligans kicking off towards the road. The strong south easterly wind making for some testing conditions.
Fleetwood Town FC prior to kick off
Quilligans FC in last minute team talk
Fleetwood Town started the brighter and had slightly more of the possession in the opening spell. They looked dangerous and Vickers almost took advantage when Foster spilled the ball but referee Gow gave a free-kick. Possession counts for little and so it proved when Quilligans opened the scoring on twelve minutes. The Fleetwood defence was hesitant on the edge of their own area and failed to clear. One of the Quilligan's strikers was left with too much time on the ball and he had time to look up and lay the ball off for skipper Steve Palmer who showed great technique and concentration when rifling a half volley into the back of the net. 1-0.
Steve Palmer (Far left) opens the scoring for Quilligans.
Three minutes later and Paul Simpson had a good chance to make it 2-0. He cut into the box at pace and beat a couple of players but his final shot was easily saved by Clowes when there were better options on offer.
Fleetwood FC defend a Quilligan's free kick
Ashley Delaney (Left) and Robbie Boal do likewise at the other end.
The spoiling wind was doing its best to hamper the players and there were few clear cut chances to speak of. The best effort came on 41 minutes for Quilligans. Fleetwood conceded a needless free-kick on the edge of the box and Quilligan's centre half Simon Garrick smashed in a powerful free kick that had keeper Clowes beaten but skimmed the top of the cross-bar.
Half time score : Quilligans FC 1 – 0 Fleetwood Town FC
Fleetwood manager Mick Kerr gives his players some half time encouragement.
It seemed to have some effect as his team came out strong and positive and five minutes into the half Fleetwood equalised. The ever busy Chris Coll won a corner on the right. The ball was driven in with wind assistance and Ian Vickers rose to head powerfully towards goal. Clowes got a finger tip to it that deflected the header on to the bar (Great save) but as the ball bounced back Fleetwood centre half Stephen 'Docker' Brooks was first to react and he headed the ball back across Clowes and into the net. 1-1.
The next fifteen or so minutes were the worst of the match as it appeared to die as a contest. The teams were cancelling each other out in the middle of the park and no chances of any significance were created but it came alive again on 71 minutes following some great play from Chris Coll. He'd been taking on people all day with confidence enjoying a lot of success. He picked up the ball about ten yards in the opposition half, beat one man and as he made his way into the box he was clearly upended by a Quilligans defender. Referee Gow had no hesitation and there were few if any complaints from Quilligans – a nailed on penalty.
Left sided midfielder Jimmy Hone stepped up and struck it well but keeper Foster guessed correctly and pulled of a great save as shown in the above picture.
Quilligans Paul Simpson (Left)
If the penalty miss was a set back it didn't show for too long as Fleetwood pushed forward for a winner. Quilligans were soaking up the pressure and reduced to chances on the break. On 80 minutes the goal eventually came and what a goal it was. Fleetwood Mark Butler made a great tackle robbing the Quilligan's left back of possession when he perhaps should have cleared it. Butler took the ball on, looked up and played a great through ball to Parker. He took on his man and beat him, he reached the by-line and played a great pass at pace across the box and there was Hone to sidefoot the ball home.
Bracewell stands with hands on head as Hone makes it 1-2.
A great goal of massive importance sparked wild celebrations from the Fleetwood players and supporters. Fleetwood goal-scorer Jimmy Hone (Right)
For the last ten minutes Quilligans were at their best as they pushed forward for the equaliser. Earlier in the season they'd lost a league game on Prebonds against Highfield Social for the first time in five seasons and to lose another against rivals Fleetwood would have been a bitter pill to swallow. They put a lot of pressure on the Fleetwood goal in the latter stages but just couldn't score.
Fleetwood's Chris Coll went very close from a header.
With time running out it was case of everybody forward for Quilligans including goal keeper Foster (Yellow) but it wasn't to be and Fleetwood won the game 1-2.
Quilligan's manager Mark Spedding congratulates Mick Kerr at the end of the game.
It was a memorable win for Fleetwood and they fully deserved it with a great second half performance despite the spoiling wind. Coll and Parker were outstanding up front for Fleetwood and caused havoc with their pace. They were well supported from all areas of the pitch particularly by Hone on the left. Quilligans, without Horsfall, lacked that midfield creativity and distribution required to provide possession for the front two. They have to pick themselves up for next week's final league game at home to the Bloomfield still needing another point to be sure of runners up spot and then it's the Gledhill Cup Final the week after. Fleetwood go to Squires Gate on Wednesday requiring only one more point from their game against the Mortgage Shop to secure the title. As well as the game against Mortgage Shop they also have another three games to come against the Clarence twice and the Bloomfield – what price them going all season without dropping a point ?