Conor McAleny out for four weeks but earns praise from Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton for selfless team spirit

Conor McAleny scored his first goal of the season at Doncaster and Jordan Rossiter was injured in the celebrations
Conor McAleny scored his first goal of the season at Doncaster and Jordan Rossiter was injured in the celebrations

Joey Barton says striker Conor McAleny faces a four-week lay-off but the Fleetwood Town boss will be boosted by the return of Rangers loanee Jordan Rossiter for tomorrow’s clash with Accrington Stanley.

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McAleny and Jack Sowerby both picked up injuries in the 1-1 draw with Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday.

McAleny played on with an ankle injury because Barton had used all of his substitutes, while midfielder Sowerby had limped off just before the break.

Neither will be fit for tomorrow’s all-Lancashire encounter but Rossiter is in contention.

The Rangers loan midfielder picked up a head injury when McAleny accidentally headbutted him while celebrating his first goal of the season in the 3-2 defeat at Doncaster last Saturday.

Rossiter missed the Wycombe game, in which Matt Gilks made his Town debut in goal.

Gilks picked up a shoulder injury making one of many saves but Barton says the 37-year-old is fine.

And he praised McAleny, 27, for showing his team spirit by staying on against the Chairboys.

The Town boss said: “Conor is looking at four weeks at least, which says an enormous thing about what he did for the team in tough circumstances.

“He went back on, probably made it a little bit worse, and then he had it strapped up and had a jab.

“Incredible selflessness for the team because he knows that by going back on he will not be doing himself any favours. That goes a long way with our group.

“I said to the dressing room after the game, ‘If that is what people who are suffering for the cause will do, then enormous respect to him and the spirit you are building in this dressing room’.

“Obviously we do not want to go down to 10 men or him to cause himself further issues.

“I told him we’d go down to 10 and scrap it out.

“With Jack going down early in the game, I made changes to get a result and then another player goes down.

It was his call. He wanted to get back out with his team mates and put his body on the line for them. He showed enormous team-ship in doing that.”

Barton explained how Rossiter picked up his head wound.

He said: “Jordan will be available for selection. He will hopefully get his stitches removed – he has Peter Clarke to thank for that!

“They were celebrating the goal. Peter jumped on Conor’s back in the euphoria of the moment, and Conor has headbutted Jordan and split his eye open.

It is quite a nasty one but luckily for him it has stayed on the eyebrow, so it will not affect his modelling contracts going forward.

He was disappointed to miss the game because he loves playing his football.

“We just had to be mindful that those stitches did not open up and become a nasty wound.”

And Barton says Gilks and number Alex Cairns are battling it out for a starting spot.

Barton said: “He’s a bit of a snowflake, Gillo. He will no doubt be complaining about all his ailments and telling us about all the saves he made in the game. He will be fine. We checked on him on Wednesday.

“He’s a little bit sore, as you would be if you careered into a static object at pace.

“Fortunately he managed to get a fingertip to the ball and keep it on the post.

“Ash Eastham followed up behind and made sure we cleared the lines.

“If they had scored and made it 2-0 we probably would not have got a point out of it. It was a big moment in the game.

“We know Gillo is capable of that and we are lucky because Cairnsy has done it in the past. We have competition in that slot. That is what we want.

“I know we want a settled keeper, but they fight it out now for the number one jersey and I think it will drive the performance levels of both players in the direction we want.”

There is competition elsewhere on the pitch as Ched Evans and Craig Morgan featured for the development squad in their 2-0 defeat by a Rangers 11 at Poolfoot Farm in midweek.

Barton says striker Evans will be assessed but Morgan is still not ready to feature for the first team, while the Town boss was pleased to be able to name midfielder Kyle Dempsey on the bench for the Wycombe game after a thigh injury.

He added: “Ched is there or thereabouts. We will monitor him in training these next few days and see how he has come out of the game. It is his first 60-70 minutes.

“Morgs played 45, so he is probably a little bit behind but I thought he was really good in that game.

“I thought that young team lost that kind of know-how in the back line when he went off. You sometimes forget how valuable his level of experience is.

“They are moving in the right direction. You have Demps back on the bench.

“He did not get on in the game but he is back in and around it. They reinforce the squad.

“Jack being out is a blow but we have Kyle coming back from a lay-off with his thigh.

“Hopefully we can keep everyone fit and active now because we are coming out of a tough period of games Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday.

“We get a week between Accy and Lincoln and then we are into another fast and furious EFL League One fixture schedule.”