Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton hailed the performance of Nathan Sheron as the academy product made his first league start in the 1-1 home draw with Wycombe Wanderers.
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The 20-year-old started alongside Ash Eastham in the heart of defence but could not keep a clean sheet, Adebayo Akinfenwa’s strike on 55 minutes cancelling out Paddy Madden’s 37th-minute header.
Barton felt Sheron did not look out of place and said: “He probably will not face a more difficult opponent all season. He (Akinfenwa) is a real handful.
“I felt Shez was outstanding against him. You would not think he was a young boy making his first league start.
“He has a couple of wise heads around him in Ross Wallace and Ryan Taylor, and Ash Eastham and Alex Cairns behind him.
“They marshalled him through the game but I felt as the game progressed he grew and grew. He has been champing at the bit since pre-season. We just felt we needed him to learn a bit more about the game.
“There was a period he was playing a bit more as a holding midfielder. I feel if you step into midfield as a young defender, the game tends to slow down a little bit when you move back.
“Harrison Biggins got on the pitch again but did not start. We felt we needed more physicality with Akinfenwa on the park. That is why he and Jason Holt missed out.”
And Barton says individual errors were again to blame after Town were left without a win in five.
The Town boss says his side did have lady luck to thank too, after referee Scott Oldham ruled that Eastham had fouled Craig Mackail-Smith just outside the box.
Barton says that on another day it could have been a red card instead of a yellow and a spot-kick.
Barton said: “Their goals are individual errors but you defend as a team and attack as a team. We have just got to tidy up. It is that little bit of game knowledge.
“It is a case of getting your arm across somebody or just putting the ball in the stand rather than being too cute, trying to play.
“If individuals do not start keeping clean sheets we will keep adjusting until we find the right balance.
“I can’t fault Cairnsy bar the goal at Southend. He has been outstanding this year.
“We felt there might have been a red card and a penalty (against us), so you take the rough with the smooth.”
And with goalscorer Madden missing big chances for a hat-trick, Barton added: “I’m optimistic and we are learning lessons all the time. We need to start winning games because performances are giving us that opportunity.
“We just need to be more ruthless but that is part of our learning curve. When the penny drops I expect us to go on a nice little run.
“You expect Paddy to score that header, especially after the difficulty of the one he scores.”