Brentford loan clause revealed as Bristol Rovers have obligation to goalkeeper
The Bees goalkeeper will play against MK Dons and Lincoln City - after shipping five on his debut
Balcombe was one of five signings in the January transfer window, joining a fortnight ago from the Premier League side. He was recalled from a season-long loan at Crawley Town, where he had been playing, after recovering from an injury.
He made his debut against Morecambe after being afforded a week to settle in after the match against Wycombe Wanderers was postponed as a result of a frozen pitch. The former Doncaster Rovers shot-stopper replaced James Belshaw, and as first outings went he had to pick the ball out of the net five times.
It was a performance in which Joey Barton believed that his fans perhaps should have been compensated for, after losing in the manner that they did. Morecambe - battling for their lives at the bottom - swept aside Rovers. Balcome however is set to keep his place in the side after it was revealed there was a clause in his contract that means he has to play at least the first three matches unless injured.
Barton said to BBC Radio Bristol: “There’s a wage you pay if they play, and obviously if they don’t play you pay a bit more so obviously the more they play, the less you end up having to contribute.
“It’s slightly different with the goalkeeper, we wanted to bring in a goalkeeper to push Belly because in every healthy environment you need competition but it’s tough to find a keeper because they need to be playing regularly.
“Ellery was someone we highlighted, he was out on loan at Crawley at the time and for Brentford to cut his loan short, they wanted different guarantees for his playing time.
“For us it was he has to come in and play the first three games, otherwise we have to pay a fee, which stopped us taking Ellery earlier on in the window.”
Belshaw was solid for Rovers last year and despite the goals and assists of both Antony Evans and Aaron Collins, it was the former Harrogate goalkeeper who won the Player of the Year award. The incredible promotion run was made possible thanks partly to Belshaw’s performances in between the sticks, recording 17 clean sheets.
Belshaw had never played in League One before this season, having mainly been in the non-league scene before joining Harrogate on their rise to the Football League. In a few matches this season, he has been caught out after coming off his line, resulting in a goal for the opposition.
Before Balcombe’s arrival, Rovers had conceded 45 goals in 27 matches, with only Burton Albion and Forest Green shipping more. It prompted Barton to dip his toes into the market to recruit a loan goalkeeper, despite perhaps a defender being more of a priority, given how Belshaw has been an assured presence over the last 18 months.
Anssi Jaakkola, who had a one-year extension activated in the summer, has begun the transition into coaching. He had once been the number one at the Memorial Stadium, but after a 2-0 defeat to Accrington Stanley, it was decided that Ballcombe would challenge Belshaw for the remainder of the campaign.
“We’ve conceded a lot of goals this season,” admitted Barton. It’s been a bit of an achilles heel for us and I know what a good goalkeeper Belly is, and you’re searching for that combination. To get better sometimes you have to be aggressive and change the status quo so we decided after the Accrington game that Belly needed competition and someone to push him.
“We knew with Ellery, because Brentford were going to recall him from somewhere that he was playing every week, that we had to give him a chance to play. He would’ve started in the Wycombe game but that got called off so the Morecambe game was the first opportunity to do that, obviously didn’t go to plan so the next two games are to give the kid a fair go.”
Up next for Rovers is MK Dons, who are improving in form after appointing a new manager. The Gas have already beaten them twice in both League One and in the EFL Trophy, but under Mark Jackson, things have improved. The Buckinghamshire-based side are outside the relegation zone on goal difference, and after suffering back-to-back defeats to Shrewsbury Town and Exeter CIty, want to bounce back after an otherwise positive start under their new boss.
MK Dons attackers Sullay Kaikai, Jonathan Leko and Mo Eisa meanwhile, are to come up against Ballcombe. Ballcombe, whilst as part of the loan deal will obliged to play, will be in between the sticks and the message from Barton’s assistant Andy Mangan to the fans was to support him.
He said: “We do think he’s a good keeper, we know Belly is a good keeper too but to give him a fair go you can’t just put them in for one game.
“For me it was a difficult decision, but in the aim of trying to get better sometimes there’s a bit of a dip just before you get better. I was disappointed Saturday with everybody, I thought we weren’t good enough right across the board and the keeper cops the flack of that because he comes into the role.
“In two games time, we’ll know where we are, at that point we’ll have a decision to make to see who retains the number one jersey but again we’ve got what we wanted, which is competition for places.”