As I Seen It - Fleetwood (a)

ALREET does marathon training (and bussing)

Fleetwood 2 POOLS 0  League 2, at The Highbury Stadium, Saturday 18th January 2014  

Fleetwood Town FC; a new team and a new ground for me. My first decision was, "Should I drive?" or, "Should I let the train take the strain?"

Despite my piss-poor record on public transport, I opted for the latter and decided to purchase my ticket on Friday afternoon to avoid faffing around with any problems such as the booking office being closed early on Saturday morning. Of course, this was a bad move as said office was actually closed for improvements which left me talking to a chap on the outside and the infamous ticket machine. Surprisingly (for me), he managed to issue me with a ticket without too much hassle but as I walked away, I realized that he had given me a ticket for Friday despite me asking him about the train times for Saturday morning!

Twenty minutes later, following explanatory calls to his boss, the obligatory form filling blah, blah, I finally scurried away with the correct ticket! And so it was that, at 7:20 am, I found myself standing at my local station waiting for the first of my FIVE trains that would take me as far as Poulton-le-Fylde.
Amazingly, all my connections turned up on time which just left the bus to complete the last leg to Fleetwood.

The bus stop is directly opposite the station exit and although Routes 80 and 82 are shown to go to Fleetwood, worryingly, there was no information to be found for the 80. A lady who eventually joined me at the stop said that they had recently changed the buses so I was left to rely on the 82 which runs once an hour. When it eventually arrived, I asked the driver about the 80 to which he replied, "Don't ask me about them!" I then asked if he could let me know when we were near the ground and he said, "When I go round the big roundabout, look out for the Queens on the right and have a word". After traversing several roundabouts, I eventually spotted, well, yes, and had a word. The driver then explained something along the lines of, "not having his mind cluttered with directions while driving" and then proved very helpful in offering directions to the ground, and advising that the bus stop outside Aldi's was the best option for the return journey as all the buses from there went to Poulton.

Although being told that the ground was,"only two minutes" down this residential street, I couldn't see any sign of it until, looking down an alley between two houses, voila! Approaching from this direction, the ground is protected from the alley by a metal fence topped with razor wire and put me in mind of the long walk down to Millwall's New Den, although nothing like as long or intimidating.

Inside the ground, Pools fans were located behind a goal which was one of three traditional-looking areas while the fourth was a much larger modern metal structure, comprising the main stand, dressing rooms etc. and housing a section of seating for visiting fans.

From the kick off, the ball was played straight out for a throw in with Pools attacking the home end. Almost immediately, disaster struck as Richards launched himself into a ferocious tackle which sent their player spinning through the air. I know I have thought that we need a bit more bite in the side but this looked really bad and despite a few Poolie comments to the contrary, I wasn't surprised when the red card was produced.
"I have to say that I thought Baldwin wasn't at his best; despite some classy touches, he looked casual at times and wasn't always aware of opponents"
Apart from having to contemplate playing virtually a whole game with only ten men, this was further compounded by Cooper hauling off James and replacing him with Big Sam and Baldwin being asked to play wide right. This set the pattern for the game and it wasn't long before the portly Parkin tried his luck from 25 yards but his volley sailed well over. He then managed to turn Collins but his weak left foot shot trundled harmlessly past the post.

Flinders decided it would be a good idea to fly out and punch the ball from the edge of his area but his poor effort landed at the feet of an attacker whose resulting shot was saved by the retreating keeper. A short corner on their left found its way to Taylor who hit a shot which was deflected and Flinders made a good save. Flinders then had to save at the feet of an attacker just outside his post and on the goal line but the ball squirted free only for the subsequent shot to somehow drift past the far post from a yard or so out. Parkin got the better of Baldwin and hit a low cross which travelled right across the face of the goal without anyone applying the final touch. Pools, starting with Monky on the right and Compton on the left, had offered little in the first half with long balls up to Harewood, a couple of surging runs from Walker where he ghosted past opponents, and the occasional foray from the rest but that was it. That said, despite Fleetwood having the lion's share of the play, Pools had looked reasonably comfortable as the half-time whistle blew.

It was business as usual as the second half opened with Burgess heading off the line after Flinders' failure to clear the threat, followed up by a superb low-down save, yet again from Parkin. The pressure on Pools was growing by the minute and the feeling that we were about to concede was immense. The inevitable happened when Parkin hit the ball against the legs of Burgess and as he attempted to clear the rebound; the ball fell kindly for Parkin who cracked home a powerful left-footed drive which flashed past Flinders into the far corner. There then followed a little tune which they use to celebrate their goals and while I was, annoyingly, struggling to name it, we were treated to a second rendition as we fell further behind. (I was later reliably informed by Edith that it was the theme from Captain Pugwash!). Baldwin was relieved of the ball inside their half and the lad we were supposedly interested in raced through the middle before switching the ball through for Marrow to slide the ball past the advancing Flinders with the outside of his right foot. I believe Cooper suggested that Baldwin may had been fouled in the build-up but I couldn't see this myself.

Walton then earned a yellow card for a heavy challenge before releasing Monky who turned his marker, took a pace and unleashed a 20 yard rocket which smacked against the bar before bouncing to safety with their keeper well beaten.

Franks and Sweeney were introduced at the expense of Compton and Baldwin respectively and although neither contributed massively to Pools cause, we did at last show a bit of spirit at the sharp end without really threatening and, of course, by then the game was already over. There was still time, however, for Flinders to get laid out while diving at the feet of the marauding Marrow and this resulted in a melee and a yellow card for Burgess. Franks did get a tame shot in but it went well wide and that brought a bad afternoon for Pools to its end.

Fleetwood looked a more than useful outfit with Parkin posing a constant threat until his substitution. They got plenty of players into attacking positions when breaking forward and played some neat stuff when bringing the ball out from the back. However, both comments have to be tempered by the fact that they were only playing against ten men and therefore had extra space in which to knock the ball about. Pools, for their part, settled for damage limitation but failed to last the course.

Regarding the players' efforts, Flinders produced a couple of really good saves in a steady performance. I have to say that I thought Baldwin wasn't at his best; despite some classy touches, he looked casual at times and wasn't always aware of opponents when passing back and across. His long passes constantly only found an opponent and he seemed to spend a lot of time almost playing on the right of a central three, giving acres of space for the dangerous Taylor to run and cross etc. In fact, I think that was the poorest performance I have seen from Jack.

Collins and Burgess didn't perform badly on a busy afternoon and the same could be said for Austin. Compton made a few mazy but unproductive runs and Monky obviously got his shot his away but in all honesty, I don't know whether they are the best two to rely on for cover in the circumstances. Walker had a few effortless runs past opponents but doesn't seem to get a foot in very often, and Walton, I thought, had a decent match. He made some telling tackles and kept possession with neat, short passes to feet.

Which just leaves the poor bugger making his Pools debut. I felt sorry for him, ploughing a lonely furrow up front all afternoon in the company of two or three defenders. Even so, he managed to win some decent headers, held the ball up well and did so with a style suggesting his lofty past. It will be interesting to see how this combines with a pacy colleague (James, presumably) in future games. Harewood was quoted as saying that he, "wants to enjoy his football once again", well, Marlon, as they say, "Things can only get better".

Finding myself back at Aldi's, I didn't have long to wait for a No.84 bus for Poulton to appear. Brilliant, I thought, as I gleefully boarded it. I spent virtually the whole journey in splendid isolation but what I didn't know was that it took me on a "Cook's tour", visiting places such as Cleveleys, which I had never heard of before, and the 20-odd minute journey out took the best part of an hour to return! Fortunately, I still had time to spare before my train arrived, the first of a paltry three to get me home!