Bristol Rovers boss questions Harrogate decision to let key player go as Anssi Jaakkola is sidelined

Bristol Rovers have found a reliable goalkeeper in Anssi Jakkola but Barton is still amazed by Harrogate’s decision making
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Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton has questioned Harrogate’s decision to allow James Belshaw to leave after his recent victory over them.

The 31-year-old joined the Gas on a free transfer last summer, on a deal that expires in the summer of 2023, and has become one of the leading figures in the team.

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Belshaw, despite being contracted to Harrogate, spent most of pre-season trying to earn a deal at Rovers and did enough to earn a contract with the West Country club.

On both occasions has kept a clean sheet against his former employers, who opted to go in a different direction, with a tinge of regret suggested.

His shutout was the 11th of the season, four more than his replacement Mark Oxley, who had a helpless task of keeping out three quality Rovers strikes on the weekend.

“I’m hoping to catch Simon in my room for a beer in a minute and ask him what he was thinking about getting rid of Belly,” Barton said.

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“We got the best goalie probably in the division for free. I can’t fathom it. I’ve asked Belly, ‘what was that about’?

“He got told that he wanted a keeper with more experience. So, someone else’s loss is our gain and we are delighted to have him.

“He’s been absolutely superb. Today was probably one of his quieter games, but if you look at his performances over the season, he’s been a real star player in our team.

“As I say, if Simon didn’t regret it after the first game, he certainly must regret it now. I suppose as managers there are moments where you can make those decisions.

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“I’m only four years in and I haven’t made one of those yet and I hope never to make one.”

Anssi Jaakola should start over James Belshaw to avoid aggravating an injury. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)Anssi Jaakola should start over James Belshaw to avoid aggravating an injury. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
Anssi Jaakola should start over James Belshaw to avoid aggravating an injury. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

Belshaw’s rival for the jersey, Anssi Jaakkola meanwhile is out for the next couple of weeks due to an ankle injury sustained in training.

Jaakkola wasn’t named on the bench against Harrogate, instead youthful goalkeeper Jed Ward was placed on the bench in place of him.

The Finnish goalkeeper has been limited to just four league appearances this season, mainly sitting amongst the substitutes whilst waiting for his chance.

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The 34-year-old will now have to endure another spell on the sidelines after picking up an injury that will keep him out for the next couple of weeks.

He rocked his ankle in training,” Barton revealed.

“They were just doing some crossing. It wasn’t with the playing group. They were doing their own goalkeeper weirdness that they do and he came in for a cross and he rolled his ankle and he stood Tony Warner the goalkeeper coaches hand.

“Tony has got quite big hands and he’s stood on his hand and rolled his ankle, so he’s looking at a couple of weeks. Nothing major.

Ward, who has one senior league appearance for the club, had been on loan at both Swindon Supermarine and Prescot Cables, before being recalled to act as cover for Belshaw.

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“Jed has had three games just to get some games up at Prescot Cables. I play golf with the guy who runs the team, he said “I’m struggling for a goalkeeper, our goalie is suspended”. Jed had his loan cut short because of the situation.

“When he went on loan their keeper was coming back. So we wanted him to play some more games.

“Jed went and played some more games and then came back into the group and Ans has picked up an injury. So, Jed will deputise until Ans is fully fit again.”

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