Joey Barton has been pleased with the performances of Conor McAleny recently as he looks to break into the Fleetwood Town first team on a more consistent basis.
McAleny scored in the 2-1 defeat to Portsmouth in the FA Cup last Saturday but has found minutes hard to come by this season, having been a back-up behind Ched Evans and Paddy Madden with Town, more often than not, operating with one striker.
The former Evertonian started in the midweek defeat to Accrington Stanley in the Leasing.com Trophy and impressed his boss.
“I thought Conor McAleny has looked really sharp, really good,” Barton said.
“With Paddy and Ched, he’s been kicking at the heels behind those two and they’ve been scoring goals so it’s been tough for Con.
“At the start of the season he did ever so well and he’s been champing at the bit.
“He came on against Blackpool and scored, came on against Pompey and got a goal.
“I felt he deserved the run out against Accrington. I felt he did really well at times in that number nine slot.”
The Accrington defeat meant that Town were out of their second cup competition in as many games.
For Barton however, having criticised the mental fortitude of his players earlier on in the season, he’s backing his players’ attitudes to see them through to the end of the season – and away from the tiring Christmas schedule.
“Unfortunately for us, we’ve got to just keep moving forward,” he said.
“When you’re our group and you’ve got our group’s mentality, you want the games to come thick and fast.
“But the festive period is a strain for every manager.
“I would have liked having a one-game break in the middle of that – just go Saturday-Saturday – but we don’t get that and that’s football.
“The lads have been tired but they’ve kept going.
“I said to the lads the great thing we’ve got to build our football club on – and it kind of embodies the town and the spirit of the town – is that it never gives up.
“The team never gives up. We’ve been poor at times, we’ve been sloppy at times, but one thing I can never, ever, level at the group is that they’ve given up.
“They’ve never downed tools. Even against Pompey, 2-0 down and knowing we had a game going on Tuesday, they just kept going and got a goal.
“It’s impossible for people to keep you down, it’s a matter of time before we get to where we want to go.
“We just need to keep improving and we’ll get to the promised land.”