Fleetwood Town defender Peter Clarke salutes Jimmy Dunne and Paddy Madden for their contributions to Oxford United victory

Peter Clarke scored the winner as Fleetwood Town saw off Oxford United last weekend
Peter Clarke scored the winner as Fleetwood Town saw off Oxford United last weekend

Fleetwood Town defender Peter Clarke has praised Burnley loanee Jimmy Dunne for his willingness to learn.

The 21-year-old made his Town debut alongside Clarke in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Oxford United.

With Harry Souttar on international duty with Australia, Dunne got the nod to start and Clarke said he could take positives from his first game.

He said: “Jimmy is a young player who has come in and is looking to gain experience.

“He is a willing learner, he is someone who wants to get better.

“He has come up against an experienced striker on Saturday in Jamie Mackie and I think he can be relatively pleased with his afternoon’s work.”

Clarke, Dunne, Souttar and Ash Eastham will all be battling it out for a spot in the centre of Town’s defence when they head to Southend United on Saturday.

Clarke sees that competition as vital for Town looking to the future.

He said: “I think, as has been said throughout the course of football generally, it is great to have competition for places.

“Big Soutts is away with Australia, that is great for him and great for his experience.

“We have got strength in depth throughout the squad, competition for places throughout the squad, which is only beneficial for everyone involved.”

Clarke has started all nine of Town’s games this season after joining on a free transfer from Oldham Athletic.

The 37-year-old is pleased to have got the nod so far but knows his place is never safe and that only hard work will see him keep his spot.

He said: “As a player and someone who is a little bit older than 21 at the start of pre-season, you want to get through it as fit as you possibly can do.

“That gives you the opportunity to be available for selection.

“To get through pre-season, it is always nice to be in the starting XI but that is not a given. There has to be plenty of hard work to get in the side or maintain your spot in the side, so it is something I’m fully prepared for and I’ve been used to throughout my career.”

At the other end of the pitch, Clarke is also relieved to be sharing a dressing room with Paddy Madden rather than trying to stop him from scoring.

Madden netted his sixth of the season against Oxford and is someone Clarke knows all about, having faced him on a number of occasions over the years.

Clarke said: “Paddy scores goals. He’s someone I have come up against a number of times in my career.

“We’ve kicked lumps out of each other, so to be on the same side now is nice.

“He is a proven goalscorer, someone who works very hard for the team. He has a real winning mentality.

“It is great that we have got him in the dressing room and in the groove and getting on the scoresheet regularly.”

It was Clarke, though, who got the winner against Oxford at Highbury.

While his main focus is stopping the other side from scoring, the defender acknowledged it was nice to do his bit in attack.

He said: “As defenders it is not your main concern but it is always nice to get on the scoresheet, and when you see it go in the back of the net, it is a nice feeling.

“When it is at home I suppose it is a little bit more special as well.”