Joey Barton believes Fleetwood Town’s first-half display in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Rotherham United has set the standard for away performances which his side must try to keep up at Rochdale today.
Millers boss Paul Warne surprised his Town counterpart by starting with a 3-5-2 system, which matched Fleetwood’s, instead of a 4-4-2 and Barton says that indicates the respect now being shown to his side.
Town’s head coach felt their first-half success was due in no small part to the contribution of strikers Paddy Madden and Ched Evans, who scored both Fleetwood goals.
Barton said: “We’ve been trying to figure out how to get Ched and Paddy working in the same system without compromising some of the structures.
“As a partnership they defended from the front and set the tone in many ways.
“The positions they took up helped us to put pressure on the ball behind them in midfield.
“The number of ball-steals and regains we had in midfield was probably the highest we’ve had all season.
“Second half they adjusted. They didn’t play through the middle and went more direct.
“I don’t know the reasons behind Paul’s switch to a three but after 45 minutes you could see that wasn’t going to be successful for them.
“I’d have loved them to continue that because we’d probably have won 3-0 or 4-0 but he’s a smart manager and he shuffled his deck.”
Barton hopes that display in South Yorkshire proved a turning point on the road after three successive away defeats on their League One travels.
He added: “It keeps us within touching distance of that group at the top end and it’s another tough away game we’ve picked up points in.
“We took three at Peterborough, who are second now, and took three at Shrewsbury, who have just won at Blackpool.
“To be fair to our lads, with a little more care and quality, we had opportunities to hurt them further on the counter.
“I told the players that, when you are as dominant as we were in the first half, we need that second goal.
“If a side wants to try to match us and play against us we are very capable of counter-pressing them – but in our division not a lot of teams want to pass!”