Fleetwood boss Joey Barton praises recalled Peter Clarke but admits Ash Eastham was unlucky

Peter Clarke in the thick of the action for Fleetwood against Gillingham
Peter Clarke in the thick of the action for Fleetwood against Gillingham
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Joey Barton hailed Peter Clarke on a “superb” return to the Town defence but admitted Ash Eastham was unfortunate to lose his place for the draw with Gillingham.

READ MORE: Fleetwood could be serious contenders says Barton
It was veteran Clarke’s first League One appearance for Fleetwood since September and came at a time when Eastham looked to be re-establishing himself as first-choice partner for Harry Souttar at the heart of Town’s defence.

Head coach Barton said: “Clarkey was superb but Ash Eastham was unlucky.

“I spoke to Ash during the week and it was just that we were going to a back three as opposed to a back four.

“I thought Clarkey in the middle of the back three used his experience, his anticipation his voice and communication. I thought he was outstanding.

“Gillingham are a handful up front and you get a thorough examination.”

And Barton expects more of the same at Rotherham on Saturday, which bodes well for Clarke’s chances of retaining his place.

The Town boss added: We’ll get the same at Rotherham against a big, physical side.

“They have big boys in that team, and we will have to stand up and put heads and bodies on the line to protect our goal against a good side who are chasing promotion.”

Despite his initial disappointment at failing to beat the Gills, Barton admits the point could prove vital.

He added: “It was a point gained because Ipswich lost at home, Coventry lost, Doncaster lost and Portsmouth lost at Accy. This table is wide open. It must be a nightmare for any punter to do a coupon in our league.”