It was a night for firsts for Fleetwood Town as Joey Barton won his first ever penalty shoot-out to orchestrate the club’s first ever win in the League Cup.
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While 35-year-old Barton’s last penalty shoot-out was over 21 years ago for Knowsley Schoolboys, last night’s 4-3 win at Crewe on spot-kicks owed much to a man who had been in this position more recently, Alex Cairns.
Town’s shot-stopper was in goal for the Leeds side that beat Crewe 3-2 on penalties at the same Gresty Road stadium in the FA Youth Cup back in 2011.
And it was a case of history repeating itself on a night of firsts for Town as Cairns, 25, was the hero once more. He stopped Perry Ng’s spot-kick and Ash Hunter did the rest to settle a tie which had been deadlocked at 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Second-half substitute Jason Holt had got Town back into the game after they found themselves 1-0 down in the 32nd minute, when Ryan Wintle scored for the Railwaymen against the run of play.
That strike was cancelled out by Holt, who was harshly denied a winner in normal time by an offside flag.
And for Barton, his first shoot-out in competitive adult football was something he had prepared for.
He said: “Unless I’ve lost sight of it, I’ve played in testimonials where there have been penalty shoot-outs.
“I think my last one I can remember was at Under-14s for Knowsley Schoolboys.
“I missed and hit the bar, so it was not a favourable experience.”
As for last night’s shoot-out, he added: “It was a strange scenario but we had practised during the week.
“We knew the new rule coming thorough that it was penalties at the end of the 90 minutes. We were thorough in our preparation.
“We made sure we practised them with a little bit of chaos going on around as you see at the end.
“Practice makes perfect, even Harrison (Biggins’) penalty (the only one Town missed) is a fantastic save by their keeper.
“All five hit the target, four out of five scored – through to the next round.”
And Barton praised his whole squad as they beat the determined League Two side.
He said: “I’m pleased with everyone. It is a real squad effort.
“Wes Burns and Paddy Madden came off the bench to win a penalty.
“The subs are coming off the bench and making an impact.
“Holty came on and I thought he was magical.
“It was a real pleasure to see him come on and watch from the sideline.
“Chris Long comes on and scores his penalty.
“I never had any doubt Ash Hunter would score (the last one), such is the form that he is in.
“He is an absolute credit to his profession.
“He has come through a little bit of a teething issue in terms of what we expect from him.
“Now he is reaping the rewards of that. He is a real team player.
“Al (Cairns) will get the headlines because it is a real good save but Ash has still got to go and seal the deal.
“Their keeper was messing about a little bit with a bit of histrionics.
“But if anyone knows Ash, you know he will not be affected by that.
I think the keeper told him he knew which way it was going – but history tells us he was wrong!”