Fleetwood Town boss Steven Pressley praised Wes Burns’ character after the striker impressed on his return to the starting 11 in Tuesday’s 1-0 Highbury defeat to Walsall.
On-loan Bristol City forward Burns was left out of the starting line-up for Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Burton but was hailed as a shining light by Pressley after he came off the bench to net his third Town goal.
The 21-year-old was rewarded with a recall against Walsall and the pacy striker once again caught the eye despite 19th-placed Town’s defeat.
Pressley says Burns was benched on Saturday as the club faced three games in eight days and had an abundance of strikers available.
With Burns, Ash Hunter, David Ball, Shola Ameobi and Devante Cole all vying for one of the three forward positions in Pressley’s side, the manager says he has been rotating the players to keep the energy levels high.
Pressley felt that the last time Town played three times in quick succession – against Coventry, Gillingham and Sheffield United – Burns struggled in the last of the three.
And Pressley said he did not want that to be the case for Saturday’s game against Barnsley at Highbury on Saturday.
The Town boss said: “I only left Wes out for the game at Burton because I knew we had three games in quick succession. When I looked at his performances the last time that happened, he struggled in the final game and I didn’t want that to be the case.
“I’ve got a number of strikers and I wanted to rotate themso we had a real energy up there.
“Wes’ reaction to coming on at half-time on Saturday and his performance against Walsall tell you everything about him.
“He is a terrific lad. We have been delighted with him. He has integrated brilliantly and has scored three goals in five games, which is a great return.”
With a plethora of striking options, Pressley allowed 25-year-old forward Jamille Matt to join League Two side Plymouth Argyle on a month’s loan on Saturday.
Pressley said: “The one area of the pitch right now where we have a number of options is the striker area.
“Jamille was desperate to play and I couldn’t guarantee that.
“I would have kept him in the club if I didn’t feel we had sufficient cover.”
There may be a number of options up front but in recent weeks Pressley’s defence has been seriously depleted.
But the defensive injury crisis seems to be easing, with relegation-threatened Town three points off the drop zone with 10 games to go.
The Town boss was boosted by the return of Conor McLaughlin at Burton, while Tyler Forbes and Stephen Jordan were unused substitutes against Walsall.
McLaughlin has again been named in the Northern Ireland squad for the friendlies against Wales next Thursday and Slovenia the following Monday. It means the right-back will miss Fleetwood’s Easter Saturday visit to Chesterfield.
Pressley says skipper Nathan Pond and midfielder Antoni Sarcevic are still major doubts for Barnsley.
He said: “We will see how it develops during the week but the signs are that Saturday might just be several days too soon for them.”
n Fleetwood Town are hosting the inspiresport Centenary Shield U18 schoolboy international between England and Scotland Schoolboys at Highbury on April 1 (7pm).
Ben Lavelle , director of Expressive Arts at Aspire Academy in Blackpool, is assistant manager of the England side for the home international series. England begin their campaign against Wales in Bangor tomorrow.
Mike Spinks, ESFA Chairman, said: “England versus Scotland is always one of the great fixtures in the football calendar. We look forward to seeing supporters coming along to be part of a great International occasion.”
Martin Booker, head of commercial at Fleetwood Town, said: “Tickets are now on sale for this game at Highbury and we hope football enthusiasts from across the Fylde coast come to support both sides.”