Joey Barton wants a response from his Fleetwood Town team in the FA Cup this weekend and urged his players to lose their bad habits if they are serious about challenging for promotion.
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Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Gillingham saw Town fall out of the top 10 in League One ahead of Sunday’s potential banana skin of an FA Cup first-round tie at non-league Alfreton Town.
The Town boss called for more consistency from his team leaders but praised Lewie Coyle and Nathan Sheron for their performances at Priestfield.
Barton said: “On the whole we have been good over the 17 league games but we do have a habit of having the occasional off 20-30 minutes. We have to iron that out if we are serious in moving the football club forward.
“The key for me is the response to adversity. I said to the lads the response (in the second half at Gillingham) I can’t knock. But we shouldn’t need that kick up the backside of going a goal or two down if we are serious about getting promoted or building a winning team.
“I challenge the leaders to step up as I always do on a daily basis. I thought there were some good performances: Lewie Coyle was outstanding; young Shez brilliant again.
“You are scratching your head thinking, ‘How have we lost that game 3-0?’ Sometimes in football you do not get what you put in but over the 46 games you do.
“The lads have to stick together, believe in the processes and iron out those little errors , then we will keep moving forwards.”
Barton was not happy with referee Charles Breakspear for not spotting what he thought was a handball by Tom Eaves before the Gills striker rifled home the second goal.
It is not the first time Barton has taken issue with Breakspear, who sent James Wallace off at Southend in September.
Barton added: “They have one of the best goalscorers in the division in Eaves. We know what a handful he can be. I had the perfect view of his first goal. He brings it down with his arm. The officials have to spot that.
“We have had the same official before and he was really poor on that occasion. He was better on Saturday but made another massive error.
Fleetwood’s development squad made it two wins out of two in their Central League Cup group with a 3-1 victory at Huddersfield.
Town fell behind to Abdelhamid Sabiri’s strike but hit back with goals by Cian Bolger, a triallist and Kian Makepeace at the Terriers’ training base.