Joey Barton is hopeful Fleetwood Town have got to the bottom of Conor McAleny’s injury woes as the forward bids to continue his comeback against Walsall on Saturday.
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The 26-year-old came off minutes into Town’s 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley in September and has struggled with a hamstring issue, making his return off the bench in Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Bury.
McAleny is yet to rack up a 30-game league season, having made 29 league appearances for Fleetwood last term.
Barton said: “It is great to have Conor back because he is so keen to do well.
“He is such a good player. We see him on the training ground, he gets frustrated when he is not playing.
“There is nothing worse for a player, especially when you are as talented as he is, than to be picking up little silly knocks and niggles.
“Hopefully, touch wood, he has got to the bottom of it.
“The physios have done a good job in locating certain things. He has been given more time and he has looked really sharp in training.
“He was not meant to play 45 minutes on Tuesday.
“He was only meant to play 30. That was the plan but we decided we had to play him because he needs minutes. Also we needed to pick up our performance.
“I thought he did really well when he came on. He looks a livewire and the more he can stay fit, the more training time and more game time he gets, we all know what a wonderful talent he can be.”
Ryan Taylor (shoulder), James Wallace (hamstring) and Dean Marney (calf) followed McAleny in returning from injury this week.
Ched Evans (ankle) and skipper Craig Morgan (illness) are still doubts for tomorrow’s Sky-televised noon clash with Walsall at Highbury but Barton is pleased to see competition for places.
He said: “We are getting them back. To get those lads back and get more competition for places is key. We need that, every squad needs that. That has probably been the real issue.
“We have not really had competition for places via injuries or players just actually not being in good enough form to really stake a claim for first team spots.
“We have had it in dribs and drabs but we have not had a sustained period when we have had lads champing at the bit and at the heels of the 11 in the team.”