Joey Barton has defence he wanted at Fleetwood and explains 'tough' decision to let Ash Eastham go to Salford

Callum Connolly has switched to his preferred right side of the back three since the signing of Lewis Gibson
Callum Connolly has switched to his preferred right side of the back three since the signing of Lewis Gibson

Joey Barton is happy with Fleetwood Town’s backline after a merry-go-round of defenders at Highbury in the January transfer window.

READ MORE: Barton bidding to build on victory over Doncaster
Town had kept clean sheets against Coventry City and Bristol Rovers before Saturday’s first win of 2020 against Doncaster Rovers.

Barton opted for three at the back, with new boys Callum Connolly and Lewis Gibson either side of loanee Harry Souttar.

Barton said: “Any decent team needs a frontline that gets you goals but I always believe defence wins you championships.

“It has been a bone of contention but it does take time to put that together because we don’t have enormous finances to recruit personnel.

“We’ve been tracking Lewis Gibson for a large period because we’ve been looking for a left-footed centre-half.

“Callum Connolly came in and did a shift for us on the left and did the basics superbly, but we’ve moved him over to his natural side, which releases Coyley (Lewie Coyle) and Wes Burns and allows us to press with a sort of front three.

“Lewis Gibson looked the real deal and handled it superbly, and he’ll come on so much for that.

“Connolly, flipping over to the right side, I think found another gear and was superb.”

After the departures of Peter Clarke and Jimmy Dunne at the start of the year, Town allowed fellow centre-half Ash Eastham to join League Two Salford City on deadline day.

And Barton explained why he made the tough decision to let the 28-year-old former captain go.

The head coach added: “We want to be an aggressive, pressing, front-foot team, and if you don’t have great mobility in the backline the pressing can sometimes be negated. I love Ash Eastham but it’s not his strong point.

“It was a tough decision to let him go to Salford to get games and continue his career because he has been outstanding as a man and as a professional.

“When you are 20 you can sit on the bench but at 28 you want to be playing every week and I respect that massively.

“The chairman (Andy Pilley) was great in supporting us because it isn’t easy to let a 28-year-old who is tried, tested and a solid player leave and bring in a 19-year-old (Gibson) who has never played a league game.

“But the chairman has that belief in us and we just hope we can deliver great football for the fans.”

Town will lose ninth place to Doncaster if the South Yorkshire club avoid defeat at Tranmere tonight.