ITEN Match Preview: Fleetwood (H)
Defeat at Grimsby on Tuesday night not only ended any hope of a Carabao Cup run for the Rovers this season, but also accentuated the clear deficiency present in Darren Moore’s squad. 24 shots on goal yielded only three true tests of goalkeeper James McKeown, and crucially led to no goals and a loss. Kieran Sadlier has made an excellent start to the season playing as a makeshift striker, but the lack of a dedicated centre forward is starting to be a real detriment to the team.
Moore has moved to address the issue this morning, confirming the signing of Tottenham Hotspur starlet Kazaiah Sterling on a season-long loan. The 20-year-old has a strong scoring rate at development level and is an England youth international and enjoyed his first experience of senior football in League One last season when he made a succession of appearances off the bench for Sunderland as part of a very competitive attacking group.
Whilst Sterling isn’t the marquee signing to fill the gap left by John Marquis, he is a potentially exciting addition and finally gives fans an out-and-out striker to complement the supporting attacking talent already present in the squad. Whether he goes straight in for this game against a tough and physical opponent remains to be seen, but it can only be a good thing to have additional options. Fleetwood represent a step up in quality from our two prior league opponents and so relying on too many younger, inexperienced players may not be the best option.
Time to Shuffle the Pack?
Making changes to the line-up for the cup defeat at Grimsby afforded Darren Moore the chance to cast his eye over a few players yet to really feature in a proper match. Chief among these is Ali Crawford, who has been puzzlingly out of the picture through pre-season but got 90 minutes at Blundell Park. Whilst not the most physical of players, Crawford brings more pure energy than most midfielders in our squad and has a touch of class that can’t be baulked at. Alternatively, Jon Taylor could make his first start in the attacking quartet having played half an hour in place of the ineffective Alex Kiwomya on Tuesday night.
In defence, the worst news has been confirmed regarding Alex Baptiste, who has suffered a serious foot injury picked up at Rochdale. A ruptured achilles may keep the veteran centre back out for the duration of the season and so Darren Moore could be back in the market for cover. With Joe Wright still being nursed back to full fitness, the opportunity has arisen quickly for young Wolves loanee Cameron John. John was seen as one of the stand-out performers in the Carabao Cup game and is in line for his first league start this weekend.
Fleetwood are hotly tipped to do well in League One this season after Joey Barton made a string of notable signings in the summer. Whilst latest recruit Ched Evans, who terrorised Rovers’ defence as the Cod Army did the double over us last season, is yet to hit match fitness having just re-joined from Sheffield United, the rest of the squad is fully fit and Barton has played the same starting XI in both league games this season, plus used the same three substitutes.
They won both of those games in contrasting circumstances, dominating the ball on their way to a 2-1 home victory over Wimbledon last time out to add to their impressive opening day victory away at Peterborough, which was much more smash-and-grab. Paddy Madden netted last Saturday and played his first full 90 minutes in a narrow loss at Nottingham Forest in the cup, so could lead the line at the Keepmoat tomorrow in place of Conor McAleny.
Doncaster-born stopper Alex Cairns will be tough to beat between the sticks although is yet to keep a clean sheet this season, and of course Rovers fans know all too well the damage that Danny Andrew can do from set pieces. The left back scored a wonderful 30-yard free kick at Peterborough to seal a 3-1 win and may well be the talking point of this fixture, having left in acrimonious circumstances to re-join Fleetwood. Barton believes Andrew has the temperament to deal with any hostility he may receive, but let’s hope all anyone is talking about come 5pm is a resounding Rovers victory to get Darren Moore fully up and running.