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League One

Joey Barton: Battle of the dark horses

2 July 2020

Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton says Friday night’s Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi-Final first leg against Wycombe Wanderers is the battle of the dark horses.

The sides will battle it out at Highbury Stadium before returning to Adams Park on Monday 6 July, and Barton says he is expecting a tough fight from Gareth Ainsworth's side.
 
“It is the battle of the dark horses,” he said. “We are certainly dark horses, and I don’t think a lot of people would have had Wycombe down for the start they had in the league.
 
“I think Gaz has done a fantastic job, he is the longest-serving manager in the EFL and he has a really settled squad who give him everything when they go out onto the pitch.
 
“We expect nothing but the best of Wycombe and we are preparing for that. We are really confident and fancy playing anyone.”
 
Despite being down to 10 men, the Cod Army managed to close out a 1-0 victory the last time the two sides met back in February, and Barton feels it will be little between the teams again here.
 
“We know that we will face a physical team, a team that we haven’t beaten at home since I have been the manager. We have drawn twice with them and they have caused us problems,” he added.
 
“Away from home, they beat us towards the end of last season and we managed to beat them just before we broke up this season. But every game has been tight, there has been one-goal margins between the two teams each time, and we all know what is at stake this time around.”
 
Fleetwood missed the opportunity to reach the League One Play-Off Final back in 2017, after losing out to Bradford City. With vastly experienced players such Glenn Whelan and Paul Coutts in their squad, their fans will be hoping that the big-game players will lead them to promotion.
 
“You look at the players in your squad who have been there and got the t-shirt, and we have a good few of them in this dressing room,” said Barton. “Before I came to Fleetwood Town, the club got into the Play-Offs under Uwe Rosler, so we have a lot of players here who went through that and experienced that disappointment.
 
“It is not like we’re walking into a place where nobody has been promoted before, Fleetwood have had a lot of promotions in a short space of time – so if you want to be in the division above, you have to prove it.”
 
The former central-midfielder was part of the 2013/14 Sky Bet Championship Play-Off-winning Queens Park Rangers side, alongside assistant manager, Clint Hill. But the 37-year-old has not given the thought of promotion as a manager a second thought at any point this campaign.
 
“I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest. It is not something that I am going to think about in the near future either. I have a task in hand, and that is to make sure we’re on the ball on Friday night,” he added.
 
“I am just making sure that the club is moving in the right direction and we hope promotion is on the cards this season. We are also working in a way that is set up to be successful, but if it not to be this season, it will be next season, because we just keep moving forward and improving in every way that we can.”

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