Fleetwood boss Joey Barton relishes "great occasion" against Sunderland

Joey Barton hopes to end Sunderland's top-two hopes at Highbury
Joey Barton hopes to end Sunderland's top-two hopes at Highbury

Joey Barton is looking forward to locking horns with Sunderland again when they travel to Fleetwood Town this evening (7.45pm).

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The Black Cats come to Highbury for Town’s final home game of the season, knowing they need a win to have any chance of automatic promotion as top-two finishers.

Jack Ross’ players sit fourth in the table, six points behind the leading pair of Luton Town and Barnsley.

Town cannot finish lower than their present 12th position but a win tonight will see them leapfrog Oxford United.

Barton said: “They will probably bring hordes down from the north-east. It’s a game that they have to win to have a chance of the automatic positions.

“Again, it’s a great occasion for the players to test themselves, especially the younger players.

“It will be a full house, though I’m not sure what weather we will get but there’s a good chance it will be windy.

“There’s a great playing surface, playing against one of the better sides in the division. At the Stadium of Light we caused a lot of problems for large periods.

“Hopefully we get a bit of decent weather and give another good performance.”

The sides drew 1-1 on Wearside in September, when both were in the top six.

Paddy Madden opened the scoring early on for Town only for them to be pegged back by Josh Maja’s equaliser before Madden missed a penalty.

A crowd approaching 30,000 witnessed the game and that, according to Barton, highlights how far Town are punching above their weight.

He said: “You look at Fleetwood as a town and there are more people in Sunderland’s ground when they have a sell-out.

“The challenge here is that this is a relatively new club in football terms. We don’t have hundreds of years or traditions.

“What we have got is an ambitious owner (Andy Pilley), who believes in the town, the progress the club is making and we don’t fear anyone.

“It will be a fantastic occasion to test yourself against players who have played in the Premier League and the Championship.

“We have nothing to lose, everything to gain, and as a former Newcastle player I expect to get a very ‘friendly’ reception. It would be very pleasing to send them back with tears in their eyes.”

Third-placed Portsmouth are also in action tonight against Peterborough.