Fleetwood Town fell to defeat at the KCOM Stadium to Hull City on Saturday afternoon, conceding a goal in each half and struggling to create anything throughout. Despite the physical approach often used byb's side, it was bad luck that two serious looking injuries fell upon two key players.
Josh Magennis and Reece Burke scored the goals for the Tigers, but it was the start and the end of the first half where the real action happened. Ched Evans backed into Callum Elder - both battling for the ball - before going down and laying motionless for ten minutes and being stretchered off. Harvey Saunders was also involved in a clash with George Long that sent him to the floor and saw him receive lengthy treatment.
"The result almost becomes secondary when it comes to player's welfare"
Barton spoke to the media and felt decisions didn't go his side's way, particularly regarding Saunders. "Thankfully Harvey's up and about, and walking round," said the Fleetwood boss. "He doesn't know what's happened. I haven't seen Ched yet, but he's talking and stuff like that, so the result almost becomes secondary when it comes to player's welfare. Hopefully they're both okay because you never want to see players out cold on a football pitch."
On the injuries, Barton admitted they happened in bizarre circumstances. "Ched's is a strange one," he said when asked about the nature of both player's hospital visits. "Callum Elder's kind of bumped into the back of him and it's almost like a whiplash injury. Harvey's is a bit more straightforward. Their lad pushes him into the goalkeeper and we feel it’s a penalty,” Barton continued. “That’s kind of been missed in the midst of him being unconscious.
"If we'd have had VAR, we may have been going in level at the break"
“We actually think it’s a penalty and possibly the goalkeeper handballs the ball outside the box, so on reflection if we’d have had VAR, we may have been going in level at the break rather than two players being stretchered off the park in neck braces and the game plan then is out of the window.” As it happened, nothing was given and Barton was left to reflect on the FA Cup in general after not making it through round one. Barton himself marched onto the pitch at half time to protest to the officials about the lack of a decision being made, but the incidents themselves looked more like an unfortunate collision which would have resulted in a drop-ball situation rather than a penalty which the Fleetwood boss seemed certain his side should have been given.
"We just want to get our players though fit and healthy, that's the key"
"The cup's great. It's a great traditional showcase for every team, but in terms of the revenue streams this year, with no crowds and the fixture congestion - we try and win every game - but I said to the lads in the dressing room before the game, cup football is a bonus. We just want to get our players though fit and healthy, that's the key.
It's sod's law really - after two minutes your number nine is being stretchered off and we're chasing our tail a little bit. You need a bit of luck when you come here, but there are still positive things to take from the game – we’re in a good spot and we know where we are.
"The set play, that's disappointing and it's something we need to look at"
Barton also bemoaned his side's luck but felt they could have also done far better with defending the second goal in particular. “It was just a strange game, a bizarre and weird game,” he said. "The game kicked off and after two minutes you had a ten, twelve minute wait around, and with no fans in the stadium, it was just bizarre. The set play, that's disappointing and it's something we need to look at after conceding at Charlton and again today. We to address that and certainly improve because if you play side that are quite closely matched, set plays can be the difference.
"If there is a year to go out early, it's this one"
“We’re looking forward to coming back here in the league when it will be a different Fleetwood Town side. It'll probably be a slightly different Hull side at that point, but I said to the lads - some of the passages of play, some of the things we're doing... I think tactically they showed us something that they haven't shown before with a different midfielder in there, so I think we’ve learned an awful lot. We’re disappointed to exit the Cup as it’s a magical competition. But if there is a year to go out early, it’s this one.”