Joey Barton on a mission to keep Fleetwood Town in play-off race
Joey Barton has called on his Fleetwood Town players to keep the club involved in the League One play-off race for as long as possible.
They are six points adrift of sixth-placed Doncaster Rovers, who occupy the final play-off spot and have a game in hand on Barton’s team.
So congested is the League One table that all of Town’s remaining matches are likely to be against opponents who need the points for different reasons.
They still have to play Walsall, Plymouth Argyle, Accrington Stanley, Southend United, Bristol Rovers and Wycombe Wanderers– all of whom are in the bottom four or too close to it for comfort.
At the other end of the table, Fleetwood also meet Coventry City, Sunderland, Barnsley, Peterborough United and Blackpool, who all have designs on either automatic promotion or the play-offs.
Head coach Barton said: “Teams will have to drop points for us to catch them because we have ground to make up, but it’s nice going into March and the season isn’t over.
“Now we have to make sure we get into April with the season not over but we have got tough fixtures between now and then.”
The first target, however, is to effectively ensure they are safe from any relegation fight, though it would take a pretty unlikely set of circumstances for Fleetwood to be dragged back towards the scrap at the bottom.
Town’s 49 points from 35 matches have left them a dozen points clear of fourth-bottom Bristol Rovers.
Only seven teams in the last decade have been relegated from League One with Town’s current points tally or higher.
Port Vale, Northampton Town and Leyton Orient all dropped into League Two with 49 points, while 50 points were not enough to save Oldham Athletic, Notts County, Gillingham or Crawley Town.
Nevertheless, there is no room for complacency at Highbury.
Barton said: “For me, it is always about getting 52 points on the board.
“That’s the hypothetical safety mark for everybody, particularly with it being my first season in, changing the culture, changing the playing staff and seeing where we are .
“We are one win away from 52 now.”