A half-time pep-talk from boss Joey Barton appears to have done the trick for Fleetwood’s players after Town progressed comfortably into the northern quarter-finals of the Leasing.com Trophy.
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The Cod Army roared to a 4-0 second- round victory over Everton’s Under-21s.
Goodison Park might have been very sparsely populated but lifelong Everton fan Barton clearly revelled in the effort of his players, though Danny Andrew’s volley after 90 seconds was all that separated the sides until the 75th minute.
Barton said: “It was a good performance from the lads. In the first half we were probably guilty of playing at their tempo a little bit, but I challenged the lads at half-time to take it up a notch and see if Everton could compete with us.
“Obviously the scoreline at the end shows you that wasn’t possible.
“We’re still in the competition. We’ve got a strong squad this season and we want to use this as an opportunity to keep giving minutes on the pitch to players who aren’t necessarily in the league starting XI.”
Barton fielded a strong side at Goodison, with 11 of the 14 players involved having featured regularly in League One this season. Teenager Billy Crellin played in goal for the third successive game.
Barton added: “Everybody gave a good account of themselves and when I made the changes from the bench – bringing on Paddy Madden, Josh Morris and Kyle Dempsey – that gave us a real impetus.
“We looked a threat every time the ball was in transition and that was really pleasing to see, particularly in that last 20 minutes.
“A lot of hard work has gone in on the training ground and there have been a lot of hard conversations, so the great thing for us as a coaching staff is to see that the lads understand all that.
“We were just a little bit off in the first half but we adjusted that.
“And in the second half the lads really took the performance on and deservedly progressed into the next round.”
It wasn’t until the closing stages when the visitors cut loose, after skipper Paul Coutts smashed home.
Sub Madden and Wes Burns, with a coolly-taken finish, made it three goals in 12 minutes to wrap up a hugely satisfactory evening for Barton’s men, who have now won four on the spin in all competitions. Three of those have been cup games and Town are again in knockout action on Sunday at Crawley in the FA Cup.