Joey Barton is surprised to see today’s hosts Walsall in a relegation battle but his Fleetwood Town side will show no mercy in their bid to break into the play-off pack.
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To close the six-point gap between 10th-placed Town and the top six, Barton hopes to make the most of a week which brings a trip to Coventry on Tuesday and a home clash with Plymouth next Saturday.
Dean Keates’ Saddlers are just two points clear of the bottom four and Barton is surprised. The Town boss said: “Before Christmas they were right up there and above us for long periods.
“They had us under pressure at our place (earning a 0-0 draw in November). I don’t know what has happened to them but the last couple of months have not been how they would have wanted.
“We must exploit that if we can but we are expecting a tough contest.
“We have to be near our maximum to take three points from them.
“They have still got a bit of a cushion but it is tight down there. People are fighting for their livelihoods.
“There will loads of twists and turns at the top and bottom between now and May. We just need to focus on staying part of it.
“There are 33 points still to play for but for us this is a massive week. If we come out of it with maximum points the league table will look a lot different”.
Town shared the points with Gillingham last weekend but Barton says wins are needed if his side are to challenge.
“I’m not a huge fan of drawing games,” he added. “When you are in a league like ours, three points can really shoot you up the table.
“We had a seven-game run when lots of the games are draws and you actually do not move too much.
“We are trying to catch teams who have a load more points than us, so I feel we need to win games.
“In a relegation battle, when you need to grind points out, a draw might be a good thing.
“There were certainly stages in the season when you just needed something to reset, like when we went to Shrewsbury on a poor run away from home (and drew 0-0 on New Year’s Day).
“Now it looks like we are not going to be drawn into a relegation battle because we have 49 points on the board. But if we win two or three of the next four we are capable of still playing for something at the end of the season.
“We just have to be as good as we can be game by game to keep our season alive.”