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20 January 2018 Venue Highbury Stadium Attendance

Kick off 15:00 (UK)

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English Football League - League One

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Match Reports

Report: Fleetwood 1 Rovers 2

Dramatic, late Smallwood strike settles tight clash on the Fylde Coast

20 January 2018

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A superb Richie Smallwood strike proved decisive as Rovers made it 16 games unbeaten in League One with a narrow but crucial win over Fleetwood

Smallwood struck with just eight minutes remaining to ensure Rovers picked up a crucial three points to take home.

It could have been so different for the visitors, who dominated the first half and led through Bradley Dack's 11th goal of the season.

But a rare mistake from Charlie Mulgrew allowed Fleetwood back into the game before Smallwood struck the late winning goal.

And to add gloss to the victory, Shrewsbury drawing at home to Doncaster resulted in Rovers moving into the automatic promotion places for the first time this season.

Boss Tony Mowbray opted for an unchanged lineup for the first time this season, keeping the same XI that confidently beat the Shrews last week.

New signing - incidentally from the day's hosts - Amari'i Bell, wasn't registered in time to play a part against his former side, but fellow recent capture Jack Payne started his Rovers career on the bench.

Just over a minute into the game and the first opportunity arose after Dack found Dominic Samuel, who went for the near post but hit the side-netting rather than the back of the net.

At the other end, Paddy Madden tried to catch out David Raya from range, but the Spaniard comfortably gathered.

Rovers had the ball in the net on 18 minutes after Dack nodded an inswinging Craig Conway cross past Chris Neal but the effort was ruled out for offside.

A couple of miutes later and a Charlie Mulgrew corner was headed goalwards by Derrick Williams, which cracked the bar before Danny Graham saw his headed attempt tipped behind excellently by Neal.

The deserved breakthrough came just two minutes before the half hour mark as a lovely move involving Elliott Bennett and Graham resulted in Dack taking a touch before confidently lashing the ball past Neal.

The hosts looked for a response but captain Cian Bolger could only loop a header over Raya's upright.

Rovers were dominant throughout, but couldn't add to their goal tally heading into the break, with Fleetwood struggling to create anything of note.

The hosts made a double half time change, with Devante Cole - son of ex-Rovers striker Andy - and Markus Schwabl being replaced by Conor McAlendy and George Glendon.

Five minutes into the break and Graham hit the post - via a touch from Neal -after being put through by Smallwood. 

Skipper Mulgrew forced Neal into a low save from a direct free kick as Rovers looked to keep up the pressure on the home goal.

But out of nothing Uwe Rosler's men found an equaliser and it came from a Rovers mistake.

Mulgrew's pass back wasn't accurate enough to Raya, the ball was cut out and substitute McAleny rounded the 'keeper to slot into an empty net to level things up.

The hosts' tails were up and Madden glanced a header wide just after the hour mark after connecting with Lewie Coyle's cross.

Raya had to be aware to deny Kyle Dempsey from a free kick with 20 minutes to go as both sides searched for a winner.

Payne entered the action to make his debut with 16 minutes to go, with the loanee replacing Graham.

Glendon and Madden leathered wide of the target in quick succession as time ticked by at a chilly Highbury Stadium.

But with eight minutes remaining it was the King of Ewood who stepped up to slam home Rovers' second goal of the game.

Payne was the orchestrator, turning Gethin Jones inside-out and picking out Smallwood who fired into the top corner from the edge of the box.

The travelling supporters certainly enjoyed the moment - as did Richie as he went on a lap of honour.

And the fans were almost celebrating again a couple of moments later but Dack's wicked effort just whistled wide of Neal's left-hand post.

The victory ensured Rovers cranked up the pressure on Wigan at the top of the division ahead of next week's clash with Northampton Town at Ewood Park.

To pick up your ticket(s) for the game against the Cobblers, please click here.

Fleetwood: Neal, Coyle, Eastham, Dempsey, Bolger (c), Schwabl (Glendon, 46), Diagouraga, Madden, Jones, Burns (Hunter, 74), Cole (McAleny, 46).

Unused substitutes: Cairns, Pond, Hiwula, Rodger.

Goal: McAleny, 56

Rovers: Raya, Nyambe, Downing, Mulgrew (c), Williams, Smallwood, Bennett, Samuel (Nuttall, 79), Conway (Armstrong, 64), Dack, Graham (Payne, 74).

Unused substitutes: Leutwiler, Ward, Caddis, Travis.

Goals: Dack, 28, Smallwood, 82

Referee: Andy Woolmer

Attendance: 4,391

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