He might not have won the League One player of the month award but Fleetwood Town new boy Harry Souttar is a winner in boss Joey Barton’s eyes.
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Defender Souttar was nominated for the Sky Bet/EFL award, having helped Town to three clean sheets from four in February.
Three of the 20-year-old’s first four EFL games on loan from Stoke City brought 1-0 wins over Charlton, Bradford and Burton.
Souttar again starred in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Gillingham. Now 10th-placed Town head to Walsall, who are 20th, tomorrow aiming for a win to take them to the 52-point safety mark and close the six-point gap on Doncaster in the last play-off spot.
Aiden McGeady picked up the player of the month award, with his Sunderland boss Jack Ross taking the manager’s prize.
Barton is pleased to see that Town’s gamble of recruiting a young player on loan is paying off.
He said: “Harry has been first-class since he came in.
“He was excellent again on Saturday against a tricky opponent in Tom Eaves.
“I know Tom scored but he is tough to handle and I thought big Soutts more than dealt with him.
“You don’t know what is going to happen when you bring a young loan player in from another club. He has been outstanding.
“I think he and the rest of the defence deserve all the plaudits they have been getting recently.”
Town head to Walsall unbeaten on the road in 2019, having ended last year with seven straight defeats on their travels.
That shows progress for Barton, who said: “It actually excites me for the future. We have dropped 21 points from leading positions – that would have put us on 70 points.
“Without playing particularly well we have managed to win and grind results out. You do see progress from the team.
“We had that weird run on the road when we didn’t win in seven but at this level you just have to accept that mad things will happen.
“Team go on strange streaks, positive and negative, and you have to accept that is par for the course.
“Having played in the Premier League, sometimes you go 10 without winning because you are playing against high-calibre opposition all the time, and when that happens you have to stick together and bond.
“If you can get through those tough periods, sometimes you come out of it as a tighter-knit group and a better team for it.
“For us you do see the lads learning and growing on a daily basis.
“There are days when you feel like you take two steps forward and one step back.
“Over the course of the year the club has sometimes made quicker momentum but to be sitting where we are, one win from the hypothetical safety mark with 11 to play, is a sign of progress.
“For large periods of last season I thought I would be managing a side in League Two.”