Bristol Rovers’ first impressions of ‘highly recommended’ Ellery Balcombe

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Ellery Balcombe’s already had a days training at Bristol Rovers - and he impressed many

Bristol Rovers assistant Andy Mangan has revealed that new signing Ellery Balcombe has been brought to the club to compete with James Belshaw.

Belshaw was named as the Player of the Season last year, and was a huge help in the Gas’ promotion to League One. However Joey Barton revealed he was considering a switch of goalkeeper after his side’s 4-3 defeat to Exeter City after Christmas.

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Balcombe’s arrival will now see Belshaw kept on his toes to hold on to his first-team berth, with his place under real threat for the first since his arrival last summer. The England Under-20 international has had numerous loans in the Football League, and takes up one of the three loan spots that Rovers have.

“Belly has done amazing for us since the first day he stepped into the building,” Mangan said about the 32-year-old.

“We need to try and give Anssi a route through to his coaching now and we need to get Belly pushed. We believe that if you push you get the best out of you. It’s great for the club and competition, it’ll be great for Belly as it will push him on even further.”

Anssi Jaakkola has been Belshaw’s number two since the ex-Finland international picked up an achilles injury at the start of last season. Belshaw took over in Jaakkola’s absence and has started the vast majority of games since.

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The 35-year-old became a player/coach at the start of this season, and now seems to be focusing more on his coaching duties alongside David Coles, with his space on the bench now being filled by either Belshaw or Balcombe.

“It gives me the opportunity to take a step back and focus more on coaching,” said Jaakkola. “It’s been tough at times to make sure that I’m ready for training and ready for games plus doing all the coaching bits and scouting the opposition, and then also making sure I’m in tip top condition for when or if I am needed to step in.

“For a while we spoke about bringing another goalkeeper in, we felt that we needed to bring in someone to compete with Belly.”

Balcombe joins the Gas on a loan deal from Brentford until the end of the season, having made 12 appearances in the first half of the season for League Two strugglers, Crawley Town.

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“It’s great for Ellery to come into a team which is at the right end of the Football League compared to where he has been with Crawley,” added Mangan.

“You can never say no to a good player and it’s on to the manager and staff to make sure he integrates really well.”

“He’s someone we’re really excited to see. Today in training he’s got a voice and a presence, you can see straight away he carries that arrogance with him that goalkeepers need to have.

“He’s a really good lad. He comes highly recommended by everyone who we have spoken to. He’s a young keeper and he’s well thought of, Colesy (David) speaks well of him. Everyone we spoke to had good things to say about him. He’s big, he is six foot three and is really good with his feet.”

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