AWAIT FOR COD ARMY
Fleetwood bid for promotion number 6
FLEETWOOD Town are on the brink of a sixth promotion in ten years after a battling draw with York sealed their place at Wembley.
A decade ago, the Cod Army were plying their trade in the North West Counties league, watched by a few hundred supporters.
But after a 1-0 win at Bootham Crescent in the first leg, a dogged rearguard action means the little club – albeit with big pockets – from the Fylde could be mixing it with Sheffield United next season.
“If you’d told me then where we’d be today I would never have believed it,” said Nathan Pond, the inspirational centre-half who has been there every step of the way.
“Now there’s one game to go to complete an incredible journey. Because the target was never just to reach Wembley. It’s not a day out.We haven’t done our job yet.
“I feel confident, of course. I’ve been in this position before with Fleetwood and it’s generally gone well. We’ve won plenty of promotions and play-offs.
“But with each one, the level gets higher and higher and the expectation goes with it. I hope my experience counts at Wembley but this one feels different. It’s definitely bigger.”
Had Josh Morris aimed his well-struck second-minute shot a foot lower, nerves might have been settled.
Instead, it was York who exhibited the greater composure, their whippet breaks and decisiveness on the ball in marked contrast to the home side’s edginess.
“I think we were probably trying too hard to impress,” said Alexander. “We tried the hard ball first instead of the easy one and that caused us problems.”
While Fleetwood’s attacks tended to end in a blind alley, the visitors crafted genuine chances. Michael Coulson should have done better than thump a shot down Chris Maxwell’s throat, Russ Penn volleyed over and Keith Lowe, up for one of several corners, forced Maxwell to tip his looping header away.
Alexander’s men did finally get going, though, and midway through the second half engineered the game’s best chance.
Midfielder Antoni Sarcevic has been an inspiration throughout the season but was largely quelled by the fiercely competitive Penn, whose all-action display required two bouts of treatment and left him looking like a vanquished boxer.
But Sarcevic did finally escape the former Cheltenham man’s clutches, jinking into the box and unleashing a fierce low drive that York’s on-loan keeper Nick Pope magnificently tipped away.
Thereafter, normal service resumed and home nerves returned, with an increasingly desperate York side pouring forward en masse.
Pop logic suggests that a side will always fashion one big chance. Yet for all their hustle and bluster, the visitors never really did. There were goalmouth scrambles, a ball across the box that Adam Reed missed by a whisker, a half-hearted penalty claim.
But in truth, Fleetwood – marshalled by the excellent Pond – always looked comfortable and should have put the game to bed when Morris, on the break, could only lash against Pope.
“There were many half-chances tonight, times when the ball was in and around the box,” said York boss Nigel Worthington. “It didn’t fall to us but, sometimes, you have to make that happen. That’s about better finishing, being sharper. But Fleetwood are a good side, make no mistake about that.
“I was proud of the players, and of the fans who have done it for us all season. They travel the length and breadth of the country. It’s disappointing at the moment but you have to dust yourself down and – after a holiday – get ready for the new season.”
SALUTING THEIR HEROES: Fleetwood fans celebrate on the pitch
“I’m so proud of the players and of the fans. It’s disappointing at the moment but we will dust ourselves down and get ready for next season.” Nigel Worthington, York manager
“If you’d told me ten years ago where we’d be today I would never have believed this.” Nathan Pond, Fleetwood defender
STAR MAN NATHA
N POND Fleetwo