Rovers' Highbury hoodoo continues as they fail to take anything from Fleetwood.
Rovers winning start to 2021 came to an end at the hands of a revitalised Fleetwood Town. Two goals in six, second half minutes changed the tide of the game after Rovers had taken an early lead through Jason Lokilo.
Kyle Vassell drew the hosts level on the hour mark and Paddy Madden gave them the lead soon after. Any hope of a comeback was thwarted late on when Danny Andrew curled in a third from the edge of the box.
Darren Moore handed out starts to new signings Scott Robertson and John Bostock as he made three changes to the side that beat Oxford United on the previous weekend. Taylor Richards, Madger Gomes and Jon Taylor all dropped to the bench.
Rovers got off to the perfect start against a side who had conceded very few goals in the league so far in this campaign when Jason Lokilo bagged his first goal in Rovers colours to put his side in the lead.
The joy didn’t last long as just five minutes later, Moore’s men were dealt a big blow as skipper Tom Anderson was forced off with a head injury following a succession of vicious looking corners from the home side.
Fleetwood certainly didn’t play like a team who had been struggling for wins and captain Paddy Madden was proving to be a real handful for the Rovers defence, while the diagonal cross field passes were finding the host’s wide men in plenty of space and able to cause damage.
Their first real chance of the first half came 20 minutes in. Fleetwood won a free kick in a dangerous area and while Rovers were able to clear the initial danger, the ball was worked to Danny Andrew at the edge of the box whose left-footed strike was only narrowly wide.
In a battle of the full-backs, Brad Halliday forged a chance of his own as he made a marauding run forward down the right and let fly narrowly wide of the far post. Cameron John was next to go close – really neat play between him and Reece James down the left got John into a wonderful position in the opposition box. His attempt to lift the ball over ‘keeper Alex Cairns and into the far corner was ambitious and slightly misjudged.
Fleetwood hit back with a few shots from distance. Charlie Mulgrew, Madden and Dan Batty all going close with efforts from around the box, but undoubtedly the best chance of the half fell to Kyle Vassall who did everything right from picking up the ball and dancing through Rovers defence but, while his effort was on target, it was close to Ellery Balcombe who did what he had to do to keep it out.
Despite the host’s having the better of the play for that period, it was the Rovers who went closest to getting the second goal just before half-time as Joe Wright – who had come on in place of Anderson – showed strikers instincts to meet a free kick by Matt Smith and toe it on target. It was a good save by Cairns to deny him.
The home side picked up where they left off with a few pot shots from distance in the opening minutes which did little to trouble Balcombe.
Rovers took a little longer to create a chance but demonstrated good patience to work an opportunity through to Reece James who appeared at the edge of the box and managed to turn away from his defender and get some space. He hit a half-shot half-cross toward the far post but no one was there to knock it in.
Fleetwood equalised on the hour mark when Vassell – who had looked most likely for the home side – capitalised from a corner – which had provided their best opportunities throughout. Once again the initial danger from the delivery was dealt with but it fell to Vassell who let fly through a sea of bodies to draw the game level.
Fleetwood’s second was a goal completely of Rovers making. An under-hit back pass by Madger Gomes drew Balcombe way off his line but Madden was always favourite to get to the ball first, took it away from the keeper and had the whole goal to aim at. He couldn’t and didn’t miss to put Fleetwood ahead.
The introduction of Taylor Richards and Jon Taylor breathed some life into the Rovers attack and the visitors certainly had the best of the closing minutes. Richards picked out Taylor whose shot was on target but lacked the pace to trouble Cairns.
Minutes later, Rovers earned another big chance with more good play down the right. This time it was Halliday’s cross which caused problems and Okenabirhie met it well at the near post but somehow put it wide.
John was next to go close - his ball towards the back post looked like it might have been creeping in but was well saved by Cairns.
Any hope of a comeback was thwarted when Danny Andrew curled the ball beyond Balcombe late on to make it 3-1.