Bristol Rovers’ predicted line-up for League Two clash with Hartlepool as new signing expected to play

Joey Barton has a number of choices to make with a number of players back. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)Joey Barton has a number of choices to make with a number of players back. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Joey Barton has a number of choices to make with a number of players back. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Bristol Rovers return to League Two action as they welcome Hartlepool United to the Memorial Stadium on Saturday with Joey Barton now able to call on a plethora of options.

Barton, who himself missed the defeat to Peterborough United in the FA Cup, was without a number of players as they were still isolating with COVID as well as suspensions.

A mix-and-match team was fielded at London Road as Sam Nicholson led the line with Ryan Loft ineligible having already played in the competition. Nicholson started despite Brett Pitman’s availability.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ahead of the match, the injury room has only a few people there now and for tomorrow, the only confirmed absentees are Harvey Saunders (hand), Leon Clarke (hamstring), Sam Finley (suspension).

In between the sticks it has to be James Belshaw, who has been number one throughout the season.

Finnish goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola is nearing a return and could find himself on the bench tomorrow but given how long he has been out for, it would be best suited to go with what has been the case all season.

In defence, James Connolly did enough on his debut to earn a place in a flat back three alongside the returning Cian Harries and Connor Taylor, who had missed out due to a suspension and injury.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Alfie Kilgour could be pushing to be involved but he was expected to be out until February, so it may be touch and go but he is back out training at least.

Nick Anderton did well at centre-back last week so he could give Barton a selection headache in the role.

After enduring a difficult start to life at Rovers it seems that Trevor Clarke seems to be turning a corner. He offers something going forward and so he should be included as one of the wing-backs.

On the opposite flank is Sam Nicholson who has played in a range of roles this season. Nicholson’s flank can be the one which is exposed a bit more to allow him to get forward as he will be well covered by the centre-backs. Nicholson offers a lot going forward too so this team is all about being on the front foot.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As Sam Finley is still suspended, it’s better to be attacking and make the defensive part of the midfield the two enforcers in Paul Coutts and Glenn Whelan. Coutts drew praise from fans for his performance against Peterborough and says he has improved as time has gone on in his Rovers career.

Opting to go for a two-man strike partnership with a central attacking midfielder supporting, Antony Evans should be the last line of the midfield. Evans is the creative spark in the team with the most goal contributions. His days of playing as a makeshift forward should be over as now he can play in a freedom role.

Who that Evans will support is up for debate but to accommodate but tomorrow should be a strike partnership in what is one of the stronger teams on paper.

Ryan Loft should be thrown straight in to show what he can do after his first part of the season at Scunthorpe United. Loft is fully aware of the physicality of the division and can be used as a battering ram to take the team forward in the traditional role of a number nine.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As Loft starts, Aaron Collins should play alongside him as before the enforced break, he was building up some momentum and is currently the top scorer in the team. Collins’ position is up for debate but playing him as a striker allows him to support Loft whilst he can also alternate with Evans. The Welshman likes to drift out to the flanks at time and can provide service to Loft.

Jordan Jones predicted line-up against Hartlepool United (3-4-1-2): James Belshaw, Cian Harries, Connor Taylor, James Connolly, Trevor Clarke, Paul Coutts, Glenn Whelan, Sam Nicholson, Antony Evans, Aaron Collins and Ryan Loft.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.