Joey Barton explained that Ashley Nadesan’s absence from Fleetwood Town’s line-up last weekend was aimed at prolonging the striker’s season.
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In the build-up to Saturday’s draw with Gillingham, Barton had said Nadesan’s form – along with that of Ched Evans and Paddy Madden – was the reason for Ash Hunter’s omission from the starting line-up.
Seven days on from his winning goal at Burton Albion, though, and Nadesan was on the bench for the visit of the Gills.
Instead, Hunter started up front with Evans and Madden, while Nadesan came on for the final half-hour.
Barton said of the 24-year-old: “Nadders came off with a tight hamstring (at Burton) and he didn’t train until the back end of the week.
“He deserved to go back in based on his performance and the goal he scored.
“However, we have 11 games left and if you pull your hamstring at this stage that puts paid to your season, so we have to look after him.
“When you have a player of Ash Hunter’s quality on the bench it makes it easier but he (Nadesan) put himself in contention for next week.
“I thought he did great when he came on.”
Blackpool’s win last night has seen Town slip to 10th in League One ahead of back-to-back away games against a Walsall side two points above the bottom four and a Coventry City team who leapfrogged Town at the weekend.
Town are six points off the top six with 11 games remaining, though Doncaster Rovers (in the final play-off spot) have a game in hand.
Barton believes the topsy-turvy nature of League One means a late surge for the play-offs is by no means impossible.
“There isn’t much between 20 teams,” he said. “Gillingham didn’t sit back and try to eke out a point from it.
“Games are winnable but we know it will be a competitive fixture at Walsall and we will have to be on top of our performance.
“Whether it’s Walsall or Coventry, we have to be on top of our game or we don’t pick up a point.”
Nadesan is among the players Barton is hoping will sign a new deal before his contract runs out this summer.
James and Ross Wallace will also be out-of-contract at the end of the season, having signed short-term deals last year.
Barton hopes to retain the services of all three and said :“We want to really settle the lads down.
“We want to say, ‘Look, you are part of what we are building here’.
“We want a strong nucleus in the dressing room who know our culture and what we are trying to do.
“We want players coming into a strong dressing room, where they can settle quickly, like we have seen with Harry Souttar. You’d think he’s been here forever and the fans love him.
“He loves being here. You can see it on his face and with the way he is playing football.
“That is credit to the lads in the dressing room. They have got a great group in there and I think they all deserve credit."