The Imps picked up a valuable point on the road in a pulsating encounter at Highbury this afternoon.
It was an enthralling game which had plenty of action and was full of commitment from both sides, City arguably had the better opportunities with home ‘keeper Jason Leutwiler having to make a number of key saves in the second half in particular. It was a real example of quality football in League One and the only thing it was a missing was a goal.
The home side applied the pressure early on, closing down quickly and looking to go quite direct to the experienced front pair of Paddy Madden and Ched Evans in an attempt to turn the City defence towards their own goal but Alex Palmer wasn’t called into action.
After no real opportunities in the opening few minutes things burst into life with two chances in as many minutes, first The Imps were closest to getting in front as TJ Eyoma fed the ball into the feed of Harry Anderson on halfway who raced forward to the edge of the home area and played in James Jones, the City number eight tried to place his ball in at the far post only to see the ball roll agonisingly inches wide.
Fleetwood’s Harvey Saunders was then denied by Palmer who raced from his goalline to deflect the ball away on the edge of the box, however his forward momentum took him into the Fleetwood man but there was no hesitation from the officials who only acknowledged the Imps’ number one had connected with the ball.
It was a real battle in midfield, with the home side looking to the experience of Glenn Whelan and Paul Coutts but for all their possession there was little in terms of danger inside The Imps’ area. Conversely, City were positive and purposeful on the ball, Brennan Johnson cut in from the left before smashing a low drive which was diverted by a Fleetwood defender, then Anderson forced Jason Leutwiler into a smart stop at his near post highlighting the threat posed on the break by Michael Appleton’s men.
Callum Camps fizzed one wide from distance as the hosts were still struggling to make a break through, whilst The Imps returned fire as Jones to volleyed on the swivel that flashed over the top. Tayo Edun was next to fashion a chance for City, his deep cross to the back post was sidefooted on target by Anderson but Leutwiler was right down the barrel of it to save.
Fleetwood had their best chance just ahead of the break, a lung busting burst down the right from Wes Burns created a crossing chance, Paddy Madden met it only to see his looping header thump off the top of the crossbar before being cleared to safety.
Fleetwood Town 0 The Imps 0
City started brightly with Johnson really getting into the groove, he was showing his quality on and off the ball, his movement being a real feature as well as bringing the first chance of the second half as he cut in front the left to smash a shot that Leutwiler had to tip over the top. Fleetwood then had Burns to thank as Anderson was inches away from finding Johnson as The Imps almost went from one end of the pitch to the other in a matter of seconds.
Jones and then Anderson and Tom Hopper were all denied by Leutwiler as Michael Appleton’s men piled on the pressure.
Joey Barton made two changes to his side just after the hour mark to try and break free of what had been a real period of dominance for the visitors. The change did bring a break of pressure in terms of chances inside the Fleetwood box, City continued to hold a lot of the possession with the home side seemingly growing increasingly frustrated. Tackles began to fly in, the game was opening up a little and the pace intensified but the deadlock remained unbroken.
Lewis Montsma and Josh Morris clashed competing for an aerial ball which brought a moment of respite from the hectic ten minutes or so of the game as both players needed assistance. Following the restart Morris created what was the home side’s first real opportunity of the second half, clipping the ball to Ched Evans at the back post but his header back across goal was watched confidently wide by Palmer in the City goal with ten minutes remaining. Fleetwood dug deep to push for an unlikely winner but The Imps positional sense and strong foundations weren’t to be ruffled.
Sub, Anthony Scully and Jones combined to almost create a chance as it was City who then took their turn pushing for their opportunity, but the Irishman’s low cross was well held at the near post by Leuwiler. Evans won a late free kick for the home side which presented Charlie Mulgrew with a chance from a free kick but Palmer cooly, watched the ball right into his grasp. Leutwiler again was to keep the scores level as Scully then hit a low shot on target, with the game deep into injury time.
Fleetwood Town 0 The Imps 0
13 Jayson LEUTWILER
3 Danny ANDREW
6 Glenn WHELAN
7 Wes BURNS
9 Ched EVANS
10 Callum CAMPS
15 Paul COUTTS
17 Paddy MADDEN
20 Harvey SAUNDERS
26 Sam STUBBS
32 Harrison HOLGATE
21 Alex CAIRNS
8 Mark DUFFY
11 Josh MORRIS (62’ for Saunders)
14 Charlie MULGREW (40’ for Stubbs)
19 Barrie McKAY (63’ for Madden)
33 James HILL
36 Jay MATETE
1 Alex PALMER
4 Lewis MONTSMA
7 Tayo EDUN
8 James JONES
9 Tom HOPPER
10 Jorge GRANT
16 Joe WALSH
20 Brennan JOHNSON
22 TJ EYOMA
23 Liam BRIDCUTT
26 Harry ANDERSON
29 Ethan ROSS
11 Anthony SCULLY (72’ for Hopper)
14 Theo ARCHIBALD
18 Conor McGRANDLES (87’ for Grant)
21 Jamie SOULE
24 Robbie GOTTS
30 Sean ROUGHAN
Booked: Bridcutt 21’, Montsma 90’
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Assistants: Robert Atkin and Billy Smallwood
4th Official: Andy Haines