Conor can’t forget his club on international service

Fleetwood Town's Conor McLaughlin. Photographer Dave Howarth/CameraSport

Fleetwood Town's Conor McLaughlin. Photographer Dave Howarth/CameraSport

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Fleetwood defender Conor McLaughlin says it will be hard to forget about Town’s relegation battle when he teams up with the Northern Ireland squad this week.

Right-back McLaughlin is in line to start his country’s two pre-UEFA European Championship friendly matches against Wales on Thursday and Slovenia on Easter Monday.

It is one of the last chances for McLaughlin to impress national team boss Michael O’Neill before the tournament in France in June.

But McLaughlin says the international break has fallen at a bad time for him on a personal level, and with Town suffering their third successive defeat at home to Barnsley on Saturday.

The defender admitted he was not happy with his own form in that 2-0 Highbury setback.

And now the international call-up means he and striker Wes Burns, who has been called-up into the Wales U21 squad, will miss Town’s crunch relegation battle at Chesterfield on Saturday.

But McLaughlin vowed to come back from international duty in better form to help Town try to beat the drop.

The 24-year-old said: “I wasn’t happy with my own performance against Barnsley, so it is a bitter thing at the minute.

“I want to play for my country but I’m not really happy with myself and the way I played.

“It is two massive games, with the Euros coming up in the summer.

“It is going to be hard to forget about the situation here at the minute, but I need to make sure I go and do myself justice in those games and come back in better form.

“It is bad timing, especially as they are friendlies, but on the flip-side of it the international manager wants friendlies to get his team together and get a better idea of what the squad is going to be. It’s just bad timing really.”

McLaughlin says the Fleetwood players were down after the Barnsley game because they felt they let themselves down in the second half.

Centre-half Joe Davis inexplicably nodded the ball past Chris Maxwell as he tried to head it back to his keeper in the 47th minute.

That opening goal knocked the stuffing out of Steven Pressley’s men and substitute Josh Scowen put the game to bed as he nodded in Conor Hourihane’s corner six minutes from time.

And McLaughlin said the team know they let themselves, the manager down and the fans down in the second half.

He said: “We are not happy (with the second half performance). We didn’t battle the way we did in the first half.

“We gave them two easy goals and we did not create much ourselves.

“I’m not sure what happened with the own goal.

“I don’t know whether it was a communication issue or Joe has just over-hit the header. It is mistakes at the minute but we didn’t create much at the other end either.

“The lads are down because we let ourselves down in the second half, but we need to move on and put it right because games are running out.”

With only nine League games left, McLaughlin says that every game needs to be treated like a winner-takes- all cup final.

Town still have a three- point cushion from the drop, but with Doncaster Rovers and Oldham just a win away from joining them on 40 points.

But defender McLaughlin says Fleetwood need to start picking up points and show more desire if they want to stay in League One.

And he urged the fans to stick with the players as their relegation battle heats up.

He said: “Try and stick with us because it is going to be tough between now and the end of the season, but just know the lads are hurting from the Barnsley game.

“We were looking over our shoulder before this game and we know ourselves that we need to start picking up points or else we will be in trouble.

“We have to show the desire to get ourselves out of this. Every game now is a cup final.

“Now we need to forget about the Barnsley game, move on and make sure we give everything in the next game.

“We need to make sure we get out of this.”