The most unusual of summers saw County’s pre-season friendlies begin with a mid-August workout and defeat against Fleetwood behind closed doors at the Hatters’ Carrington training facility.
Two first-half goals saw the League One side prevail against the Hatters, who fielded different line-ups in each half – taking the opportunity to introduce all of their close-season signings, with the exception of Jordan Williams who had arrived at Edgeley Park from AFC Fylde the previous day.
The visitors created the contest’s first chance after 10 minutes, when a slip by Ash Palmer let in Paddy Madden – but the Irish striker’s shot was bravely parried by Ben Hinchliffe, and Wes Burns fired wide of the left post on the rebound.
Six minutes later, Fleetwood went one better – following a neat passing move around the edge of County’s area that saw Ched Evans feed Josh Morris, who slotted past Hinchliffe from close range to give the Lancashire outfit an early lead.
County rallied to force two corners around the mid-point of the half, but what chances the Hatters did create failed to trouble Fleetwood’s trialist goalkeeper. And seven minutes ahead of the break, the visitors’ lead was doubled after Mark Kitching impeded Burns in the box – with Madden sending Hinchliffe the wrong way from the penalty spot.
With half-time imminent, Fleetwood came close to adding a third – only for the crossbar to come to County’s aid, after Hinchliffe spilled a shot by Callum Camps and the former Rochdale midfielder struck the woodwork with his follow-up effort.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Fleetwood 2 (Morris, 16; Madden (penalty), 38).
County’s second-half team included a trialist in goal, erstwhile long-term injured absentees Alex Curran and Darren Stephenson, and former midfielders Paul Turnbull and Sam Walker who were continuing to train with County despite their having been officially released in July.
Nyal Bell unleashed a first attempt on target for the Hatters, by way of a shot on the turn that the ‘keeper dived to smother, before Carl Johnston went close for the Football League side with a well-struck low drive that fizzed narrowly shy of the right post.
Several Fleetwood changes were made in the course of the half, but the visitors’ young replacements continued the earlier work of their more senior club-mates by remaining composed and comfortable on the ball as the encounter entered its latter stages.
County’s un-named Number One (or, rather, 13) saved well from Shayden Morris – and did well to intercept an under-hit back-pass from James Jennings whilst under pressure, so as to keep the second half goalless.
FULL-TIME: County 0, Fleetwood 2 (Morris, 16; Madden (penalty), 38).
First-half Team (3-4-3): Hinchliffe; Hogan (Capt.), Palmer, Stott; Minihan, Maynard, Rooney, Kitching; Reid, Bennett, C. Jennings.
Second-half Team (3-4-3): Trialist; Keane, Downing, J.Jennings; Thomas, Turnbull (Capt.), Walker, Curran (Owens, 85); Trialist, Bell, Stephenson.
Unused Sub: Hopkins.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.