Fleetwood Town’s penultimate pre-season clash ended with a 3-1 win over League Two side Morecambe at the Globe Arena.
But what did we learn from Saturday’s victory? The Gazette’s Fleetwood Town reporter Rosie Swarbrick looks at the key talking points.
Barton’s side are up for a battle
It might have been billed as a pre-season friendly but Saturday’s windy afternoon on Morecambe Bay taught people more about Town than they might have expected.
Jim Bentley’s side asked some serious questions of Joey Barton’s new side, and though they answered them with aplomb and wrapped up a convincing victory, there are still many things to ponder going in to Saturday’s League One opener with AFC Wimbledon.
With no home fixture at Highbury this pre-season it was a chance for Barton to see how his side reacts to the windy conditions of the Lancashire coastline.
Town battled the weather and the fiery nature of the derby clash with ease, something which pleased the new boss.
Alex Cairns shows why he is Fleetwood’s new number one
The Shrimps started both halves strongly and gave an opportunity for Alex Cairns to impress.
Andy Fleming found himself in acres of space in the box after some slack marking on a set-piece but could only drill the ball off target, as did Vadaine Oliver.
Nathan Sheron was guilty of a lapse in concentration, allowing the Shrimps to spray the ball out to the right flank with Aaron Wildig rising above Craig Morgan and Tommy Spurr before seeing Cairns’ fingertip stop saving Town.
Wes Burns impresses as Barton faces attacking selection headache
Despite Morecambe’s probing of the back four and a need to iron out a few creases at the back, Town’s front men stole the show.
Conor McAleny should have scored but curled off target after beeing set up by Ched Evans.
He didn’t need a second inviation however as, after Morecambe failed to clear Bobby Grant’s cross, McAleny scored his third pre-season goal.
Then, a man many of the Cod Army would not have considered a contendor at the start of pre-season, Wes Burns, pushed his case with a man-of-the-match display.
He nodded home a Grant cross in the 42nd minute and now has as many goals in pre-season as he managed in the whole of the last campaign.
Given the nod on the wide role of the front three it seems both Burns and McAleny revelled as Morecambe were preoccupied with how to handle Evans.
Evans could have made it two in two after a fumble by Morecambe keeper Barry Roche, who subsequently recovered.
It would be harsh on any of the three not to start against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.
The smart money may still be on McAleny to finish the season as Town’s top scorer but Barton has plenty of attacking options with Evans, Burns and Paddy Madden also at his disposal.
Nathan Sheron is set to be the next development squad star to make his EFL bow
With goals likely to flow up front, Bobby Grant moved back into midfield and showed his threat with a thunderous strike for the third of the afternoon.
Aside from the lapse of concentration – along with Sheron – that enabled Fleming to pull a goal back for the Shrimps, Grant would have pushed Burns as Saturday’s top performer.
It looks a straight battle between Grant and Kyle Dempsey for the left-hand midfield role and the latter showed why he will probably get the nod, reinvigorating Town’s forward play after his introduction from the bench.
The rest of the midfield spots are still up for grabs, and with Jason Holt suspended, Sheron, Harrison Biggins and Jack Sowerby all put forward cases to start.
A first EFL start for Sheron looks imminent as he has been the development squad star of this pre-season.
Barton said he was going to give Town’s youngsters a chance and it looks like Sheron, moved up from a defensive role to number four, has got one hand on a starting shirt for Saturday.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves...
Defensive work still needs to be done and Ash Eastham and Cian Bolger can still prove they should be starting next Saturday at Chorley tonight.
It is a big night too for the full-backs, Eddie Clarke and Gethin Jones will have to have the games of their lives to usurp Lewie Coyle and Joe Maguire who had strong and durable games.
Set-pieces still remained a problem but, with a few tweaks here and there, Barton’s unbeaten reign has generated further cause for optimism.