‘It really is David against Goliath’ – Barton claims Ipswich are ‘everybody’s favourites’ for League One title
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Ipswich Town face Fleetwood Town for the first time ever tomorrow. STUART WATSON takes a closer look at The Cody Army.
Originally named 'Fleetwood FC', re-established as 'Fleetwood Town FC' in 1977 and then re-established again as 'Fleetwood Wanderers' in 1997 before a sponsorship deal soon saw them called 'Fleetwood Freeport', Reverted back to the name of Fleetwood Town FC in 2002.
Their nickname - The Cod Army - refers to the North Lancashire seaside town's fishing industry.
Originally placed in Division One of the Cheshire League, six promotions between 1999 and 2012 saw them rise to the Football League. A certain Jamie Vardy scored the goals that got them out of the National League before netting a £1m transfer fee.
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A further promotion, in 2014, saw the club reach League One. This is now their sixth successive season in the third-tier following finishes of 10th, 19th, 4th, 14th and 11th.
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Redeveloped between 2008 and 2011, Highbury Stadium - which used to double up as a speedway track - has an official capacity of 5,327, the fourth smallest in the Football League.
Ipswich Town fans have taken their full allocation of away tickets, with around 1,100 expected to be split between the Percy Ronson terrace (800) and Parkside Stand (300).
Joey Barton has started 18 different players in the league so far (one fewer than Ipswich). His team have scored 20 goals (the same as Ipswich). He claims, despite a flying start (W6 D2 L2), that his team have still not hit top form.
Fleetwood haven't lost at their Highbury home since February 16 (W6 D6). They've won their last three home outings in the league, beating Accrington (2-0), Oxford (2-1) and Rochdale (2-1). Currently third in the table, their only two defeats have come at Doncaster (3-2) and Lincoln (2-0).
"To be honest, I'm a little disappointed we're not sitting 10-0 because of how dominant we've been in the opening 10 games," said manager Joey Barton.
"I think that we're still to hit our stride as a team. For the first time this season we got into third gear in the second half at Shrewsbury on Saturday (when they won 3-0). There's so much more to come from our team which is exciting."
'DAVID AND GOLIATH'
Ipswich Town boss Paul Lambert keeps stressing that his team have got a target on their backs in League One. Barton's pre-match comments confirm as much.
"It really is David against Goliath," said the one-cap former England international. "They are everybody's favourites to win the league and are a huge club in League One.
"We can't compete with these teams financially, so we've got to be a lot smarter with the things that we do. We have to be cute and efficient and get everything out of our club and culture to be up there.
"We believe that if we keep doing what we're doing, be humble and keep learning, we will get to where we need to be."
A bit like Darren Moore at Doncaster, Barton used the free agent and loan market effectively this summer to build a young and enthusiastic squad.
Left-back Danny Andrew (28) was a big part of Doncaster's sixth-place finish last season, Australian centre-back Harry Souttar (20) is back for a second loan spell from Stoke, while right-back Lewie Coyle (23) has returned from Leeds for a third spell. Jimmy Dunne (21) has arrived from Burnley to partner Souttar at the back.
Experienced midfielder Paul Coutts looks an astute addition following his release by Sheffield United. He's joined in the middle of the park by Rangers loanee Jordan Rossiter (22).
Josh Morris was picked up after his contract at Scunthorpe expired. The 28-year-old winger, who scored a goal every three games for the Iron in League One, has already bagged four for Fleetwood.
Experienced ex Man City, Norwich, Chesterfield and Sheffield United striker Ched Evans saw his loan move become permanent this summer. He battles with six-goal Paddy Madden for a place up front.
STYLE OF PLAY
Speaking after the recent 2-1 home win against Rochdale, Barton said: "It shows how far we have come that teams come here to sit in and try to hit us on the counter. Teams realise what a solid outfit and a good team we are. Rochdale would no doubt have been quite pleased with a point.
"We made offensive subs and as a manager you can be criticised if you lose or draw on the back of that.
"At Southend (a 3-3 draw in which they conceded an 87th minute equaliser), I should probably have stayed more offensive but I went to a back five to deal with their aerial threat. As a young coach it's probably part of my learning journey.
"Today I was adamant we were going to be on the front foot and keep going for it. Making attacking subs, with two wingers and a centre-forward coming on, just added impetus. We were aggressive and wanted the three points. That's the culture of the club."