Fleetwood Town’s attacking options leave Joey Barton spoiled for choice
Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton says Ash Hunter is a valuable part of his team as he faces a selection headache up front when Scunthorpe United visit Highbury tomorrow.
Hunter came off the bench to score a rare headed goal as Town won 3-0 at AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Ched Evans had marked his return from suspension with two goals prior to that Hunter effort.
With Paddy Madden on 16 goals and Ashley Nadesan starting the last three games since his return from a nine-goal loan at Carlisle, Barton has a wealth of options for his front three.
Evans had only returned because Wes Burns switched to right-back to cover for the suspended Lewie Coyle, while Conor McAleny has not had a kick in recent weeks.
It means Barton is spoiled for choice with Madden, Evans and Nadesan currently holding the strikers’ shirts.
Barton said: “It is tough for him (Hunter) because Nadders (Nadesan) has come back from Carlisle and been superb; I thought he was outstanding on Tuesday night.
“Then you have got Paddy Madden on 16 and Ched grabbed another two on Tuesday night.
“It is difficult to find a balance in the team to give us a defensive platform as well as showcasing the ability those front boys have.
“Ash has been brilliant for us; first class in terms of his attitude to the point where he can come on and make an impact in games.
“I think the lads accept that the lads that are in the shirts are playing well enough to hold onto them.
“We have competition in those zones.
“Ash is a valuable member of our team and has made many games his own with his creativity and his impact.
“I’m sure between now and the end of the season he will do that, but at the minute, the lads that are in those slots are making it hard for them to get in there.
“Ched only got back in on Tuesday because Coyley was suspended so we had to move Wes because we wanted to try him in that right-back slot.
“Wes does brilliantly and Ched comes in and scores goals which makes it even tougher for the lads behind that.
“I’m made up for Ash, he gets on and you very rarely see him score a headed goal.
“I’m delighted for him because he has been a fantastic player.
“I’m glad he gets on and contributes and, no doubt, between now and May he will be doing lots of goalscoring because he has been part of 50 per cent of our goals.
“That is one of the stats I have seen bouncing about.
“He has been first class and the key thing is we have good quality for competition for places.”
Nadesan’s return following his loan at Carlisle United has seen him impress on the right-hand side.
With that in mind, Barton wants McAleny and Hunter fighting for the role on the left of the front three.
He said: “We have got good players that are playing well and Conor, to be fair to him, accepts that.
“Nadders has come back and is causing problems, I think that right slot really suits him the way he plays.
“I’m not sure Conor or Ash Hunter would be as effective on the right-hand side.
“They tend to do their best stuff from the left cutting in.
“They are nice problems to have but also the key for it is that we were defensively resolute and were able to shut up shop because we have got goals in the side.
“The system we played with is about giving the defence and the midfield a bit more of a platform to control games all the while keeping our strength in those attacking areas.
“At this moment in time it is working. Hopefully that continues and we keep getting stronger and stronger until the end of the season.”