Bristol Rovers dealt major blow after James Connolly set for ‘prolonged’ spell on sidelines

In his pre-match chat, Joey Barton revealed Bristol Rovers will be without James Connolly for an extended period

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Bristol Rovers have been dealt a major blow after James Connolly was ruled out for at least a month.

Connolly had been ever present for the Gas this season, playing in league and cup fixtures, but now faces a spell on the sidelines in what is a massive blow to the Gas.

The 20-year-old has sustained a stress fracture injury, which is a small crack in the bone, which is a common injury for athletes.

As a result, the former Cardiff City defender was not named in the match-day squad for the League One clash with Shrewsbury Town.

Speaking pre-match to BBC Radio Bristol, first-team manager Joey Barton said: “He’s got a little bit of a stress fracture in the bottom of his back.

“We’ve got a bit of medical scans and stuff to do, so he’s going to miss a prolonged period. It’s going to be at least a month, if not a couple of months.

“(It is a) big (blow). He’s a young player developing and it looks like it’s been something that’s been niggling away, certainly in the past few weeks and when it’s in that part of your body you have to take all the precautions that you can.

In Connolly’s absence, academy graduate Alfie Kilgour started in his place, making his first league start since playing against Hartlepool United back in January.

Kilgour had started against Crawley Town and he has had to bide his time having fallen down the pecking order since his absence prompted the signing of Connolly.

He suffered a season-ending injury back in January, whilst Connor Taylor and James Connolly were the preferred partnership in Rovers’ League Two promotion run-in.

Luca Hoole has also been tried at centre-back but the reshuffle has seen the Wales Under-21 defender move back to the position of right-back.

Barton added: “Alfie Kilgour has been chomping at the bit and he’ll want to give a good account of himself today. Disappointing to lose a player, but it’s always an opportunity for somebody else.

“Alf’s had to be really patient due to Connor Taylor and James Connolly’s form last year and at the start of this year. He’s been waiting for opportunities. He’s a mad-keen Gashead, he’s a Bristol lad and no doubt he will want to stake his claim for the jersey.”

As well as an injury to Connolly, midfielder Sam Finley has been carrying an injury for the past week or so, which has brought his match status into question.

Finley has had just one day of training ahead of the match and is named amongst the substitutes with Jordan Rossiter and Paul Coutts favoured ahead of him.

Such injuries to Connolly, as well as James Gibbons being on the sidelines could prompt Rovers to make more moves in the transfer market.

Utility man Josh Grant was also not named in the match-day squad as the medical team closely monitor his situation after missing a chunk of last season, which had continued into pre-season.

Barton said: “Sam Finley’s had a bit of a knock this week and he only returned to training yesterday, so we’re a little bit short at the minute and we’ve got the deadline lingering in the background.

“We’re after maximum points today and then we’ve got a bit of work to do for the next league fixture.”