U's lose out at Highbury
Second-half goals from David Ball and Ashley Hunter gave Uwe Rosler's Fleetwood a 2-0 victory over the U's tonight at Highbury. Level at the break, United were undone by two good finishes from the Cod Army to leave Michael Appleton's side frustrated in their search for a first league win of the season.
The U’s started promisingly enough. Miles Welch-Hayes, making his debut, had a couple of confidence-boosting early touches as he settled into his right-back role, with Chey Dunkley returning inside him after a slight hamstring problem after Curtis Nelson was ruled out with a foot injury.
Fleetwood had the clearest chance in the first 20 minutes, Devante Cole nodding over from a decent position, but neither keeper had too much to do as the sides played nice football but most times couldn’t find a final pass.
Chris Maguire volleyed wide on 22 then tested home keeper Chris Neal for the first time with a well-struck effort in the 25th minute but Cole might have done better a minute later than plant a loose ball into the away end, with defenders desperately trying to get between him and an open goal after Eastwood had done well to rush out and block a Chris Long run at goal.
Cole and David Ball sent further efforts into the cowering away fans before Liam Sercombe flashed the final chance of a scoreless first half into the side netting.
The first 45 minutes had been easy on the eye but what we needed was a goal. Unfortunately after just five minutes it came at the wrong end when the home side took the lead. United should have cleared their lines but instead, having cut out a dangerous cross, the off-balance Welch-Hayes could only get the ball as far away as Ball, lurking 20 yards from goal. His shot was perfectly struck and flew into the far corner of the net despite Eastwood getting fingertips to the rising ball.
Sercombe flicked a header just wide a minute later as United came back strongly but the game was becoming increasingly open and on 70 minutes it was the home side who exploited the open space the best. Sub Hunter had only been on the field for seconds after replacing the wasteful Cole but when given the ball at the end of a move from left to right he was ruthless as he drilled it across Eastwood to make it 2-0 and seal Fleetwood's first win of the season.
United kept their shape and kept working but Fleetwood have firmly established themselves at this level and protected keeper Neal superbly. Other than a comfortable long-distance effort from Sercombe on 82 and a half chance for Hemmings in injury time Neal remained untested as the home side kept possession and saw the game out very professionally.
United had battled hard but had neither created the clear chances that Fleetwood had managed nor, crucially, been ruthless in front of goal. A week ago they were beating Championship side Birmingham, so that first league win can't be too far away. Hopefully it will be against Peterborough at home on Saturday.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA