The Mariners rounded off this summer’s pre-season friendlies with a 1-0 defeat at Sky Bet League One side Fleetwood Town.
In another promising showing against higher league opposition, Town started the better side at Highbury Stadium with Danny Rose having the first chance of the match. His opportunistic effort from just outside the box in the opening minute of the match was well saved by Jay Lynch in Fleetwood’s goal.
Lynch was called into action again shortly after when Harry Clifton has a powerful right-footed drive well stopped after good with from Abo Eisa on the right-hand side.
It was, though, the hosts who opened the scoring in the 13th minute. After the initial attack was dealt with by Harvey Rodgers close to the penalty spot, Fleetwood recycled possession and, when Danny Mayor fed a low pass into the box from the right, the impressive Promise Omochere – a handful throughout – tapped in from six yards out.
Despite that setback, it was the Mariners who dominated the rest of the first period with Khouri and Rose again going close before we reached the twenty-minute mark.
Town would then go onto hit the post through Anthony Glennon. After a corner from his left boot was cleared, he was able to fashion a further crossing opportunity and, arcing goalward from the right channel, his ball into the box beat his teammates and Fleetwood’s defenders. The goalpost, however, was not to be beaten and the hosts were able to scramble clear after it bounced invitingly back into the box.
Khouri, shortly after, would have another effort after an Efete cross was headed into his path by a Fleetwood man. After taking the ball on his chest, he sent a powerful effort towards goal and it ended up flooring one of the hosts’ defenders, the deflection going out for a corner.
With the Mariners continuing to push for an equaliser, a few minutes later Glennon sent an inviting cross towards the penalty box and Rose did brilliantly to get a header away. Scrambling across, Lynch was able to keep the effort out with the assistance of his left-hand post and, after play was recycled, Khouri went down on the left with a penalty appeal that came to nothing.
In the dying moments of the half, an old-school goalmouth scramble ensured after Eisa’s effort on goal was well saved. After a few efforts and blocks, the half – and scramble – ended when our wideman missed the target with the final effort of the half.
Ahead of the second forty-five, and with Town looking for an equaliser, Holohan and Vernam rose from the bench to replace Hunt and Clifton and the Mariners had the first foray into enemy territory of the half.
Efete, marauding forward, found himself in crossing range but his ball into the box was well met by Lynch ahead of Rose, dealing with the threat.
A second penalty claim of the match for the Mariners came moments after. Vernam collected the ball around thirty yards out. Turning to face goal, he fed a threaded pass through, between two Fleetwood defenders, into the path of Eisa. Seemingly bundled to the ground, the referee pointed merely for a goal kick, much to the Mariners’ frustration.
Vernam was involved in the action again after picking up the ball in the middle of the field. Spreading play to the left, he found Khouri who, after slowing down play to allow Glennon to overlap, fed the ball into his path. He rolled a tempting ball across the box and only the timely intervention of a Fleetwood defender at the back post stopped a Town equaliser.
As more Mariners changes were made, this time with Harvey Cartwright and Niall Maher replacing Jake Eastwood and Luke Waterfall, momentum was lost and chances – for either side – became harder to come by.
Kieran Green and Danny Amos replaced Danny Rose and Kamil Conteh, shortly before Eisa’s exit after some on-field treatment with Aaron Braithwaite coming on for the latter.
Fleetwood went close in the 77th minute after Josh Vela capitalised on some slack play. Getting to the byline, he stood a cross up for Omochere but the goalscorer couldn’t add to his tally and he sent it over the bar.
With two minutes left, Cian Hayes went close for the hosts. His initial cross was diverted goalbound by Rodgers and only good reactions from his namesake Cartwright kept it out. That save went back into the path of Hayes, though, but his looping header saw our substitute keeper spring back into action to pluck the ball out of the air and keep the deficit at one.
With no additional time added at the end of the ninety, the final whistle went shortly after to wrap up our pre-season schedule on the West Coast with Fleetwood the victors by one goal. Next weekend sees Town’s Sky Bet League Two campaign kick-off, with AFC Wimbledon visiting Blundell Park on Saturday.