Joey Barton believes the biggest lesson he has learned concerns team selection as Fleetwood Town prepare to host AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup third round.
The two sides met on the opening day of the season at Highbury, where Barton’s first game as manager ended in a 1-0 defeat.
Only five of the starters from that game – Alex Cairns, Lewie Coyle, Craig Morgan, Wes Burns and Ched Evans – started the New Year’s Day draw at Shrewsbury Town.
Of the other half-dozen, Cian Bolger and Kyle Dempsey have not had regular game time, Conor McAleny was hindered by a hamstring injury for part of the first half of the season, Bobby Grant has joined Wrexham, Jack Sowerby is on loan at Carlisle United and injury cut short Tommy Spurr’s loan stay.
“I look back at the team and we were very unbalanced on the day,” Barton said.
“But it was what we thought was best with what we had available for us.
“I’d definitely pick a different side if I had my chance at that again.
“It was not a great game, they probably played us at the right time.
“Subsequently we have turned our home ground into a very difficult place to come.
“We took a period of time to get us there but thankfully in recent months we have been a good home side.”
Ash Eastham and Paddy Madden were among those overlooked on the opening day but have become two of the first names on the teamsheet.
Ross Wallace, James Wallace, James Husband and Harrison Biggins have also become regulars, the latter an example of Barton’s desire to give youth a chance.
Barton’s much-changed line-up will also face a Dons team with a different manager with Wally Downes having replaced Neal Ardley.
Town may be 11th in League One and today’s visitors bottom but Barton is not taking them lightly.
“The league table is out of the window,” he warned.
“Nobody cares because it is the FA Cup and there are no points at stake.
“That can sometimes allow players to express themselves.
“But we have to earn the right to play like any Saturday.
“I am looking forward to the game, mainly to exorcise that Portsmouth game because 5-2 looks like they have battered us and it is far from that.
“We’ve been good at home and I want to get us back winning at home because it gives us a real feel-good factor around the place.”