League form: Fleetwood WWL | Wycombe WDW
League head-to-head: P 6 | Fleetwood W 1 | Wycombe W 3 | D 2
The last time: Wycombe 1-0 Fleetwood (4th May 2019, League One)
Coming into the Game
108 days on from meeting as all-but-survivors and mid-table obscurity dwellers respectively, Wycombe and Fleetwood face off after generally positive starts which have left them both in the top five. Saturday’s win over MK Dons was, as expected, our toughest test so far, but this will be an even sterner examination. The Cod Army ought to be well placed to mount a play-off push, after a solid season of consolidation and some excellent summer recruitment. They dropped their first points of the season at the weekend, losing their own action-packed 3-2 at Doncaster, but they could, and perhaps should, have come away with at least a draw.
No game between these two has ever finished with more than two goals, with four 1-0 victories and two 1-1 draws in the books. With our combined 2019/20 fixtures producing 19 goals so far, though, perhaps this is when that trend ends. 3-2 again, anyone?
In Their Dugout: Joey Barton
A man who needs no introduction, Barton took over at Highbury last summer. The former Man City, Newcastle and QPR midfielder steered the Cod Army to an 11th place finish in his first season as a manager, beating play-off semi-finalists Doncaster (twice), runners-up Sunderland, and winners Charlton along the way.
The Danger Man for Them: Paddy Madden
Madden is yet to start a league game in 2019/20 – but given that he’s come off the bench in all three of them and scored in two, there’s a high chance of that changing tonight. He headed in the opener in this fixture last October (in which Adebayo Akinfenwa equalised with a belter), one of 15 league goals he bagged in 2018/19 as Fleetwood’s second top scorer. The 29-year-old Irishman has netted 27 times in all since joining from Scunthorpe in January 2018.
A (Slightly) Deeper Look
We should see 4-3-3 v 4-3-3 tonight for the first time this season. It’s fair to expect the odd personnel change in both camps, given the quick turnaround time, but there shouldn’t be too much fatigue in the legs just yet!
The Cod Army’s 3-1 opening day triumph at big-spending Peterborough was efficient rather than dominant – they saw just 26% of possession – while they came from behind the beat AFC Wimbledon 2-1 a week later. Two games are hardly enough to go on, but the very early signs suggest that Barton’s side are capable of grinding out a win in different ways.
Fleetwood’s attacking credentials are pretty clear: they’re one of only five EFL teams to have scored at least twice in every game so far in 2019/20 (Blackpool, Charlton, Lincoln and Mansfield are the others, for what it’s worth). Creative wide man Josh Morris – who joined from Scunthorpe on a free this summer – and the aforementioned Madden have each bagged two of their side’s seven goals, with striker Conor McCaleny and defenders Danny Andrew and Harry Soutar completing the set. Left-back Andrew arrived on a free after leaving Doncaster, while centre-half Souttar is on loan from Stoke, having also been so for the second half of last season.
However, while the goals seem to be flowing freely and from all over the pitch, Fleetwood are yet to keep a clean sheet. They’ve already conceded three goals from long balls into the box – two of them free-kicks – which were poorly defended, and another from failing to properly clear a corner, even if that was a screamer from Doncaster’s James Coppinger. There appear to be vulnerabilities there, but will that be enough for Gareth Ainsworth to go with Akinfenwa from the start? Or will it be a case of unleashing the Beast late on again?
I spoke of fighting fire with fire ahead of Saturday’s game. Well, why not do the same again? We’ve shown that we can go forward with good intensity and cause problems on the break. Fred Onyedinma‘s goal to round off a ‘blink of an eye’ counter-attack exemplified the latter quite wonderfully, regardless of the touch of fortune we enjoyed in the form of a failed MK interception. The starting front line could well remain the same – especially as neither Alex Samuel nor Paul Smyth played the full 90 – but expect to see David Wheeler and Bayo called upon again at some point. Josh Parker is yet to make his league debut, but there’s no obvious reason for him to come in for this one.
The extent of Adam El-Abd‘s calf injury is unclear, but it would be a surprise to see him back quite so soon. Sido Jombati might be back this week, probably just not in time for this one, so Anthony Stewart‘s partner likely comes down to a choice between Giles Phillips – who gave us the odd scare on his league debut – and Darius Charles, who is fit and ready to go after his emotional re-signing. We did perhaps lack a defensive leader/enforcer on Saturday, and how uplifting would it be to see Darius back on a football pitch?
After his near-MOTM showing at the weekend, the “Nick Freeman must start” movement has gathered more momentum. Surely, surely this time, Matt Bloomfield drops the bench and our resident pass-master starts? If we need to tighten up in the second half, bring Blooms on then. How much playing time can the old warhorse manage in four days anymore anyway?
The Opposition View with Ben Knapman (@FTFCKnappers)
So far we’ve played some very good, attractive, free-flowing football. Joey has brought some great players in like Paul Coutts, Josh Morris, Danny Andrew and Harry Souttar – very good signings who are such good players for this level. We have scored seven goals in three games, and we look positive going forward and like we can score every time we do.
The first two wins of the season were excellent. Peterborough are promotion favourites, and to score three was even more impressive. To beat Wimbledon, who seem to be a bogey team for us – especially when we play them at Highbury – was even sweeter! Unfortunately on Saturday, we lost to a decent side in Doncaster, but we didn’t deserve to lose. We deserved at least a point and I think we will put it right on Tuesday night. We have striking options now and a very strong bench, so I feel this will help us in the long run as we get into busy periods of the season.
I feel we can win on Tuesday. However, Wycombe have started very well, so I’m expecting a very tough and physical side. I’d also like to note fair play to any Wycombe fans travelling down and supporting their club on Tuesday. However, I hope you go back empty handed!