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Northwich Victoria come from behind to floor Fleetwood Town in FA Trophy
FOR Andy Preece, beating Fleetwood brings with it extra fervour.
Partly for putting one over on an old pal in manager Micky Mellon, but more for upsetting the odds as an unexpected victor.
Mismatches are the making of him.
Just ask Charlton.
“This win is as good as that one, maybe better,” he said of Vics’ famous FA Cup success against the former Premier League giants two terms ago.
“It’s massive, because nobody gave us a chance.”
Even he must have had doubts at the interval when, after creating – and not converting – the best chances, Vics trailed to Gareth Seddon’s goal.
Picked out by striker partner Richard Brodie, he steered in a bullet header in first half stoppage time. It was more than Fleetwood, shorn of eight starters from their previous encounter against Yeovil in the FA Cup and with one eye on a replay against the same opponents on Tuesday, had merited.
Unsurprisingly with so many changes, they lacked cohesion.
But Northwich, so short on numbers themselves that Preece picked himself as a substitute, gave their guests no time to get to know each other on the ball.
Twice in the opening quarter hour did goalkeeper Danzell St Louis-Hamilton have to use his hands to divert shots from Nathan Woolfe and then Ryan Wade to safety.
His touch, however slight, was decisive too when Jordan Johnson took aim at the back post on 20 minutes.
The Cod Army’s custodian continued to be a barrier to an opening goal, parrying Woolfe’s free kick into Ian Kearney’s path only to react quickly to smother the latter’s effort on the rebound.
Fleetwood flickered, Seddon sending a header too high from Alan Goodall’s set piece then Brodie missed a sitter from close range when his fellow front man turned provider.
It did not deter Vics, Wade’s skidding shot forcing St Louis-Hamilton to scramble low to his right.
When Chris Budrys fired off target after finding himself face-to-face with Fleetwood’s keeper, Vics could be forgiven for feeling sorry for themselves.
Seddon’s sucker punch did not help, but by the final whistle it was Fleetwood on the floor.
“We got what we deserved because Northwich played better football,” mused Mellon afterwards That, plus St Louis-Hamilton’s schizophrenic second half.
Indeed, Mellon might blame him for all three goals.
He rushed off his line to meet Lewis Short’s free kick on 56 minutes, only for Kearney to skim a header into an empty net after beating him to it.
Northwich got lucky for their next strike though, Johnson’s over-cooked cross looping over the net-minder when it seemed simpler to save.
Woolfe arced in a free kick with a quarter hour left to add to Vics’ advantage, leaving Fleetwood to fall at the first hurdle for the second season running.
Had Kyle Armstrong not blazed over with a clear sight of goal or substitute Wayne Riley erred when similarly placed, they might have suffered further ignominy.
But Preece had already added another scalp to his collection by then.
Vics’ Star Man Nathan Woolfe. His slow start to the season is fading faster into memory with each passing week.
Woolfe capped a fine individual performance by applying icing to Vics’ cake, but Fleetwood full back Glenn Wilson had long since wanted to see the back of him.
Sometimes a source of frustration with over-elaboration, the former Bolton Wanderers wide man pitched the perfect balance between dribbling and delivering an assist to a teammate.
Vics (4-4-2) Hinchliffe (GK), Disney, Kearney, Smyth, Short, Johnson (Riley 76), Armstrong, Roddy, Woolfe, Budrys (Clarke 86), Wade (Ennis 90)
Subs not used Arron Morrison (G), Preece
Goal Kearney 56, Johnson 63, Woolfe 76
Fleetwood (4-4-2) St Louis-Hamilton (GK), Wilson, Wassmer, McNulty (Charnock 67), Goodall (Clancy 46), Crowther, McGuire (Wynn 78), Briggs, Edwards, Brodie, Seddon
Subs not used Davies (GK), Till
Goal Seddon 45 (+1)
Booked Seddon (kicking the ball away), Brodie (foul)
Referee Tony Harrington (County Durham)