Joey Barton says attackers Paddy Madden and Ash Hunter are staking strong claims for starting places when Fleetwood Town return to action against Burton Albion this weekend after their two-week break.
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Town are back at Highbury on Saturday a fortnight after losing 1-0 to League One leaders Ipswich Town and head coach Barton hinted at possible changes.
Last season’s top scorer Madden and Hunter have come off the bench in Town’s last three league matches.
Striker Madden last started a league game in the 3-3 draw at Southend a month ago, whereas wideman Hunter has not done so since August.
Barton said: “Yes, Paddy and Ash are pushing really hard and I think next time out they have earned an opportunity.
“We have given a couple of lads a run when they haven’t been at the level we know they can get to, and when you get Madden (left) and Hunter pushing hard at some point you have to give them a go.
“So the next few weeks are going to be massive for a couple of players.
“What has been seen as a strong start to the season for the club, for us as a group has only been OK.”
And Barton’s attacking options could widen still further with the availability of Conor McAleny, who has been ruled out since the August home draw with Wycombe Wanderers because of an ankle injury.
The Town boss said of his squad’s fitness: “We’re absolutely fine. Conor McAleny is the last one (unavailable) and we’ll be back to a full complement hopefully when we get back here against Burton.”