Joey Barton was disappointed that an agonising shoot-out defeat to Accrington Stanley in the Leasing.com Trophy ended Fleetwood’s cup interests for this season, but the Town boss was determined to take as many positives as possible from that northern quarter-final exit.
READ MORE: Accrington knock Fleetwood out of Leasing.com Trophy on penalties
A youthful Town side bowed out after Stanley made it 2-2 in the 90th-minute at Highbury, then converted all their penalties. Paddy Madden’s skied effort from the spot proved fatal as the Cod Army suffered a second knockout blow in just four days following their FA Cup loss to Portsmouth.
However, Barton remained upbeat after the game and said: “It was a great cup-tie. We knew heading into the game that Accrington had a free weekend before, so they probably had a slight fitness advantage, but if you look at our lads compared to theirs we were going strong right until the end.
“Some of our young lads had been champing at the bit for an opportunity and it shows how well they’ve been training because I thought they were all superb.
“There was a great energy level and, let’s be honest, we absolutely battered them in the second half.
"And barring our top goalscorer missing a chance thanks to a fantastic save from their goalkeeper, the tie should have been beyond Accrington.
“Forty seconds after that miss they were playing nothing-to-lose football with big Ross Sykes up there, and as we know with John Coleman’s sides, they keep going right until the end.
“Credit to their big man for that – it wasn’t an easy finish but he hit it right into the corner, so I wish them all the best now for the rest of the competition.
“Of course I would have loved to have gone through. I picked a side to win the game for sure. We did more than enough to have won it but sometimes football is cruel.
“Once you go to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out, that is what it is. I’m disappointed but the lads gave everything and sometimes that’s all you can ask for as a manager.”
The blustery conditions contributed to a disappointing opening 45 minutes, in which Town created the better chances but Stanley opened the scoring through Dion Charles.
Fleetwood turned the game on its head as Josh Morris’ cross flew into the net and Danny Andrew curled home an exquisite free-kick before makeshift striker Sykes struck.
Barton added: “A lot of players on the edge of the squad gave a really good account of themselves.
“They showed that they’re fit and ready if they are called upon; and trust me, they will be because we’ve got a lot of games.”