Fleetwood Town (A) Match Preview

United travel north for the second time in January’s mad relay race, buoyant from their spirited performance against Rotherham in the Dominoes Trophy. With a trip to sunny Bolton on Tuesday, the U’s will hope for another solid and determined display from the squad they have available to choose from against a capricious Fleetwood side who, like the cool kids, turn up late and spoil parties; 4 of their points from the last 5 games have been earned after the 89th minute, scoring no goals in the first half. 

United’s challenge will be defending solidly and hoping to counter meaningfully as they did against Morecambe, and more recently Lincoln away. That may prove difficult with few impactful subs to bring on as legs naturally tire—the United bench featuring so many teenagers, it looks more like a bus stop than a plan B. 

Listen to the latest episode of UTAS wherever you get your pods:

Takeaways from Bonner’s presser

  • Morale is not dependent on our preferred starting 11 being available. 
  • Jones, Taylor, Tracey, Ironside, and Weir will miss out.
  • Lankester, Iredale, Sherring, and Hoolahan will be in the squad. O’Neil on the bench is possible. 
  • The next two weeks are the bottleneck before key players return from injury, and that we should await their return and wait out the siege of upcoming fixtures by trusting the versatility of the players that are fit to play. 
  • The only likely transfer in this window will be a loan cover for Ironside. 
  • Talking down the hype surrounding Liam Bennett (he is not ready to be thrown into League One football). 

Expected line-up

With a raft of injuries and a small squad, the team somewhat picks itself. The only debates will be Okedina or Sherring in defence, and whether Worman’s legs will be preferred to Hoolahan’s from the start.

Mitov, Williams, Okedina, Iredale, Dunk; Digby, Worman; Knibbs, May, Brophy; Smith

Opposition preview

Fleetwood have thoroughly bolstered their squad so far in January, bringing in young midfielder Harvey Macadam, ex-Ipswich centre-back (with a year in the Championship) Toto Nsiala, centre-back Zak Jules on loan from MK Dons, and forward Ellis Harrison who also has Championship experience. 

With a new manager and a host of new characters around the squad, it’s an exciting time for Fleetwood who sit two points outside the relegation zone and whose destiny this season is still very much in their own hands. League One remains The Cod Army’s only remaining concern this season so they’ll put everything into it. 

Who is their player to watch?

Anthony Pilkington has three years of Premier League experience, 9 international caps for Ireland, and having had more than £3m spent in fees on him, you would expect big things. He snatched the equalising goal against Plymouth on Tuesday. 

Gerard Garner, as an 11 year old, scored 76 goals in a season, breaking a record previously held by Wayne Rooney. He has 7 more goals this season than Rooney. 

Who’s in the dugout?

Despite being new to management, Stephen Crainey has made a good start by the sea, picking up four wins from his first ten league games, losing just three in that spell. Replacing Simon Grayson with Crainey seems to have invigorated Fleetwood’s season at an important moment. 

What’s their recent form like?

A mixed bag, anchored by a 3-0 thumping at home by Shrewsbury. Factor in a huge 1-0 win at home to Rotherham and a two-goal comeback in the dying moments against Plymouth and you have a real puzzle in front of you. 

Any ex-United players?

Two redheads! Max Clarke left this month to join League Two Rochdale. Brad Halliday, a bright spark in Amber and Black between 2016–2019, has an ongoing injury, making only three appearances this season. He won’t feature. 

Last time out

The first meeting between the two sides was among the string of games where we conceded early, that time in the second minute from a corner. 

The United goals were peaches. Digby won the ball in midfield and Adam May struck his first of the season from 30 yards. Iredale, who was still at left-back, started with the ball in his own half, beat two men, and crossed for Shilow Tracey to calmly finish. 

It took a second half wonder strike to even the game.

A matchday album to listen to

You’re going to need a coat, a mac at least. 

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, 1977. Preferably drinking cranberry juice while skateboarding to the game.

The UTAS team’s terrible Moosenet predictions

2-1 to United with goals from Smith and Iredale. Without Ironside it’s going to be a lottery, but as we saw on Tuesday, even Paul Digby is a threat. 

From the archive

November 8, 2014. United 1-0 Fleetwood. 

Kwesi Appiah’s counter-attacking goal earned the U’s a place in round two. Stephen Crainey (Fleewood’s manager) played that day, as did cult classic Yellows—Luke Chadwick, Liam Hughes, Josh Coulson, Tom Champion. The younger looking (but still gorgeous) Greg Taylor and Harrison Dunk also took part. 

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