Fleetwood v Rochdale: Clinical Cods

Fleetwood’s speedy ex-Man City academy and Bradford forward partners.. erm.. – blackpoolgazette.co.uk

Fleetwood are one of just two League One teams yet to draw a blank this term. When we look at their performance at Plymouth last time out, it is hardly surprising.

That’s not because they created lots of chances in that 2-1 win, but because they created three clear cut chances and finished two of them, such was their proficiency in front of goal.

The opener came from Jordy Hiwula, who posed a threat with his pace in behind along with Devante Cole, whose career has followed a similar route. Wes Burns also looked lively when he came on and played a humble part in the second goal, a wonderful solo effort from Amari’i Bell.

The left wing-back hasn’t been particularly good defensively this year, but the pace and drive he provides explains why he benefits from playing in front of three centre-backs. Like Bell, right wing-back Lewie Coyle has started all 11 league games this term and the Leeds loanee is often deemed one of the best players on the pitch.

A wing-back system is something that Rochdale manager Keith Hill might be tempted by, given the dearth of proven wingers in his squad after Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s summer exit. The attack-minded Joe Bunney would relish the extra freedom as a left wing-back while Joe Rafferty, if he comes back into the starting line-up, could provide similar energy on the right.

They might hope for a change of system that allows them to get back to being the high-tempo side that always plays on the front foot, which we have grown to admire over the last three seasons. After winning promotion to League One in 2014, every year they were the among the highest-scoring teams, the one every neutral enjoyed watching.

Two months into this campaign, they are currently the fifth lowest scorers and look increasingly predictable, perhaps playing within themselves. Brad Inman might have secured an injury-time point in last week’s 1-0 defeat to Rotherham. Had the ex-Crewe man fired the ball home, rather than over the crossbar however, it might have masked a poor performance lacking in final third prowess that produced just two shots on target.

Their best attacking performer has been Steven Davies, who has scored four of their 10 goals.  In fact, the ex-Bradford forward netted a crucial 85th minute winner when these teams met at a similar stage last season. That goal triggered a run of six straight victories which propelled Dale briefly into top six contention.

Against the same opposition, Hill must hope that Davies can again inspire his troops onto better things.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-1