Monday, 16 April 2012

Fleetwood Town 2-2 Lincoln City

Ok i have to admit something at the start of this write up. I have a soft spot for Fleetwood Town FC. This is due to the fact that i visited a couple of seasons ago when on a short break to Blackpool and as a special present Mrs Ferret paid for us to enjoy the VIP Package. At the time the club were battling Southport for the Blue Square North Championship . Not only were they building on the pitch but work was being under taken off it to bringing the stadium up to league standard. The impressive Jim's bar is the best clubhouse i have visited on my travels over the last few years. On our visit all of the staff were very friendly and it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon our here's the story from the 4-2 win over the Viz Sponsored Blyth Spartans. Due to us purchasing those tickets we are on the club's members list and received a members card during last season.
Over the past couple of years Fleetwood's chairman has invested vast sums of cash into the club with the aim of achieving Football League status. The club's rise up the Leagues has been pretty remarkable. Only a mere seven years ago they were playing in the North West Counties League and playing Retford United in the FA Cup. In my write up from that game a couple of years ago i said how i could see the club obtaining Football League status in the next 5 years or so, and as it turns out they beat my prediction by a couple of seasons. One thing i certainly didn't predict was the fact that they would have the chance to gain promotion against Lincoln City.
Due to the fact that they have spent a fair bit of cash, some supporters of other clubs seem to be quite bitchy when it comes to Fleetwood. Yes they may have spent quite alot to get where they are but in my view they have done it with alot more class than the likes of Crawley and Rushden and Diamonds have done. Going back a few years Wigan outspent the rest of the lower leagues as they marched up the football pyramid and now everybody (bar me) seems to want them to stay up. Short memories some do have. Fans of other teams may pour scorn on Fleetwood but lets be honest, most of us would love a chairman like theirs who wants to invest in their club and build it at all levels. His investment makes our Chairman's input into Lincoln City look like mere chicken feed (Or should that be turkey feed)
Personally i would rather Fleetwood go up than sides like Wrexham and Luton who's fans seem to think they have a god given right to win promotion. The only problem with a Fleetwood promotion is that we miss out on a great away weekend in Blackpool. Lets hope that Southport don't win the playoffs.
Anyway enough about Fleetwood.

Its been a couple of years since i visited the fair town of Blackpool and on that occasion it was January so a fair bit of it was shut. I have always enjoyed Blackpool. I know some people think its tacky and run down but for me a weekend away is what you make of it. I  have some great memories of nights out there. My first trip here was the infamous trip to watch the Imps take on Blackpool in the 98/99 season (which we won!) and i have pretty much enjoyed the jaunt there since. I have often used Blackpool as a base for Imps away trips in the past with trips to Rochdale and Wrexham (both of which we lost). On my "List to do" is to stay here midweek for either an AFC Blackpool game or Blackpool Wren Rovers. This depends on holidays and cash so its very much in the "Watch this space" category for next season. There is also Squire Gate and AFC Fylde not to far away, but one at a time i think.
Blackpool seems to have undergone a bit of a regeneration since i was last here and the central area in front of the Tower certainly looks alot smarter Although you don't have to go far down the front to see that some areas are still quite tired looking. A new tram system has also recently been set up but as we were to find out later not all is as it seems with it. Unfortunately "Linkers" sports bar shut down long ago and the Crazy Scots bar was undergoing renovation work, but old favourites like the Counting house are still going strong. Its a bit if a tradition for me that whenever i am in Blackpool, it's the first pub that i visit.
The match was a Friday night fixture so our plan was for a night out on the town on the Thursday night then chill before the Imps game on the Friday then travel back home Saturday  morning.
I enjoy Thursday nights out in Blackpool much more than Friday and Saturday nights. There are enough folk out for it to be a good atmosphere but its not to rammed with Primark versions of TOWIE wannabes. You also get some pretty decent deals on drinks, which i am sure you will agree is always welcome. After heading out about 7ish and visiting a number of watering holes we ended up in Vodka Revolution where 6 shots cost a very reasonable £8 so we set about the task of sampling most of the shots on the menu. All of them were quite nice but i can thoroughly recommend the chilli shots. They have a real kick to them as you knock them back.
The only downside to the night came at the end of the night. For post drinking food i ordered a kebab and my other half got a pizza. What happened though was they prepared the kebab before the pizza was ready so the kebab was a tad on the cold side. Due to this i place this kebab from Flames at the bottom of the 2011/12 kebab table.

The Friday was spent chilling out and recovering form the previous night. The game was scheduled to kick off at 7.30pm. From Blackpool sea front you can either get the number 1 bus up to Fleetwood or you can get the tram. We decided on getting the bus from the stop outside the Hilton Hotel at about 5 o clock. As we waited the Lincoln City team bus pulled into the coach park at the hotel for what i assume was a pre match meal. I am sure that had they wandered along the seas front they could have found something cheaper but there you go. Once on the bus you want the stop near the Highbury fish and chip shop which was doing a brisk trade. I had read that away fans were not allowed into the social club next to the away turnstiles so we stayed on the bus and got off in town so we could have a few drinks and walked up to the ground.  The pubs in Fleetwood were certainly cheaper than the ones in Blackpool (by about £2 a round) and most had lots of pictures of fishing trawlers from years gone by. I had expected them to be packed with Fleetwood fans but maybe they had all decided to drink in the bars at the ground. Fleetwoods ground is a cashless stadium which means you have to get a ticket before you enter the ground, thankfully the away ticket office is slap bang next to the away turnstiles. Tonight's entrance was £15 for covered terracing.
 We still had plenty of time before kickoff so we went for a walk around the ground. One surprise for me was that despite large new stand they have built the clubshop is quite small. It seemed that it had been doing a roaring trade in scarves though as many punters were wearing rather new looking Fleetwood Town scarves. One or two street vendors were trying to flog red and white checked flags to punters (describing them as "Champions flags") but i didn't see anybody buying them.

As we got round to the away end again the Imps supporters bus had just pulled in with the normal assortment of "characters" on board. It goes without saying that they moaned about the same things they always do when they get to a new ground; having to queue for tickets, not being able to go in the clubhouse (stacks of pubs in Fleetwood guys come on) etc. The programmes had now arrived and were priced at a very reasonable £2.50. It was quite a decent read and proof that you can knock up a decent programme with a nice range of articles with interesting things and still sell it at £2.50 i can certainly think of one club that could do with a few more articles in the programme and less pictures to pad out the programme.
Upon entering the ground the first thing that i noticed was that City had only been allocated half of the stand behind the goal. This was a bit of a surprise given that Fleetwood's website had said we would receive all of the end behind the goal. Thankfully though the view was still pretty good. I can't really blame Fleetwood for giving us only half that end. It was the biggest night in the club's history and so it is only right that they get as many home fans in as possible. The only downside to this was the fact that the club had to hire some dodgy portaloos in for the away fans. For refreshment a burger bar had been hired but we had decided to eat in Blackpool after the match so the only thing a purchased was a cup of tea. It was very nice but at £1.50 it should have been!
As you stand in the away section you can't help but admire the large main stand to your right. In an age of Lego brick lookalike stadiums its great to see something different. The stand has replaced the area where we had the V.I.P meal last time we were here. Although the old stand was nice its not a patch on the new one as you can see from the pictures below.
The other three stands of the ground are pretty much the same as the last time i was here. The only difference was the large screen that had been erected to our left hand side. The Cod Army were filling up the home terrace opposite us and had a pretty impressive array of banners hung up. The "Ultras de Cod" being one of my favourites. One a table infront of the stand to our left sat the Conference championship trophy which was to be presented to the home club if they gained the three points tonight and thus wrapping up the Championship and promotion to the Football League. A win for City would have guaranteed survival in the Conference. A draw meant that both clubs would have to wait a little longer to get to their respective targets.

A City win however was a huge ask. Fleetwood have only lost three matches all season long and were unbeaten in 26 games. Their last league defeat came back in October. Before the game they had racked up an impressive 102 points. Given all this its hardly surprising that some bookmakers were offering up to 10/1 for a City win. Those odds could well have got bigger as City lost defender Tom Miller in the warm up meaning Karlton Watson got a rare start along side Josh Gowling in the heart of the defence.

Fleetwood could have wrapped the Championship up on Tuesday night but Wrexham spoilt the party with a 1-1 draw. The opening exchanges were fairly even but just as it looked as if the home side was building up a head of steam City look the lead out of nowhere when a smart move was finished off well by Jamie Talyor. Highbury was stunned as the Imps fans huddled in the corner went mad. I must admit i didn't expect the scoreline to stay the same for long so a took a picture of the scoreboard for old times sake.

I expected this to be a mere red rag to a bull but it was far from the case. Instead of Fleetwood taking the game to Lincoln we took control of the game and harried and pressured Fleetwood into mistakes and they couldnt get their passing game going. It got even better for City in the 20th minute when Jefferson Louis headed in at the back post to give the Imps a 2-0 lead. Were Fleetwood about to crumble infront of the TV cameras and blow their big night?
It was at this point Fleetwood woke up and realised they were in a game here and were 0-2 down at home to Lincoln City in front of the nation live on TV. They started to pen the Imps back and forced a few corners and created several half chances. As they got more and more on top, i got the feeling that if City were to get anything out of this game we would have to get to halftime with the two goal lead intact. Then on the stroke of halftime Fleetwood were back in the game. Anyon made a smart save but the rebound fell to Jamie Vardy who has had already scored 32 goals this season. Needless to say that goal number 33 arrived as he blasted the ball high into the roof of the net. Cue wild celebrations from the Fleetwood fans and a few bars of the Captain Pugwash theme blasted out of the PA system.
 HT 1-2
A mere four minutes into the second half and the scores were level when Vardy collected the ball and coolly beat Anyon as he came out to try and cut the angle down. Again the noise levels reached fever pitch as the home fans sensed blood. It was at this point that I saw a 4-2 defeat and an early tram ride back to Blackpool beckoning. But to our immense credit Lincoln dug in and battled really well. Much of the game was spent in the Lincoln half but City kept getting blocks in and clearing their lines.
Lincoln did have a couple of late chances to win the game late on through breakaways by Jake Sheridan and Louis but in the main it was the hosts who controlled the game. As the crowd grew restless they started to appeal for anything and everything going. At the end of the 90mins the ref added a further 5 minutes to be played and i got a  horrible feeling we were going to let in a last minute goal and give the TV company showing the game the fairytale ending they would so have liked.
FT 2-2
Over the past few years we have seen some really feeble away performances from the Imps but today they were immense; they stood up to the huge challenge and came through it with flying colours. As the Fleetwood players and fans trudged off the Imps entire squad went into the traditional post match huddle in the centre of the pitch. Then they came over the applaud the City faithful who were brilliant all night long. Although it was only a point it felt like so much more, and after the showings at the likes of Barrow and Braintree etc, it reminded us of why we go to away games.

After the game we decided to head back on the tram which in hindsight was a bit of a boo boo. As we got to the nearest tram stop we discovered that it was shut that meant a walk down to the next one. Thankfully this one was open. The new tram system does seem to be half baked at the moment and has attracted plenty of criticism in the local press. We overheard a couple of locals saying how much of a joke the new system was, so its not just us away fans who were struggling to work out fares and which stops are open etc.

We decided to celebrate our point against the Cod Army with a nice late night portion of fish and chips.  There was fish shop just round the corner from the hotel so we piled in there and very nice they were too. The  fish was fried there and then and served with plenty of chips, all this for under 4 quid! You really can't go wrong can you?
I know this blog has been a bit longer than normal but this was no normal away day/weekend. I hope you have enjoyed it and i haven't bored you all too much. As an ending note i have included a picture for all you guys out there who like to visit Blackpool to eye up the birds. Enjoy. :-)

Selected Saturday results.

Grimsby Town 2-2 Wrexham
Fleetwood Town are confirmed as Conference champions

Hayes and Yeading 1-3 Mansfield Town
Lincoln Citys status in the BSP is confirmed for the 2012/13 season

Congratulations Fleetwood Town FC

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