Bristol Rovers predicted starting XI versus Stevenage - with return of talisman and decision on striker
Bristol Rovers have not yet beaten Stevenage in a Football League fixture but will hope this starting XI can do the business
Bristol Rovers will look to build on their midweek performance when they travel to the Lamex Stadium to face Stevenage in League Two.
The Gas put in one of their best displays of the season as they defeated Sutton United 2-0 with Harry Anderson and Aaron Collins on target.
They now have to build on that by maintaining a level of consistency against lowly Stevenage in Hertfordshire.
There is somewhat of a selection headache for Rovers as a number of key players are returning to fitness, which could see a rejig of the side.
Below is the team that we expect Joey Barton to name on Saturday afternoon when they line up against the Boro.
It’s clear to see that James Belshaw is the first-choice goalkeeper at the moment. He didn’t have much to do on Tuesday but is still that safe pair of hands in between the sticks.
Expect him to start ahead of Anssi Jaakkola who will have to wait again for his opportunity.
Luca Hoole has coped well with the demands of League Two, slotting in at right-back in the absence of the more experienced players. Hoole is building up a good rep with the manager and with the defence earning the plaudits, not many changes are expected there.
When Alfie Kilgour was able, James Connolly had to make way against Hartlepool United but the on-loan Cardiff City defender was really holding his own at the minute. Kilgour is back on the grass but will probably miss out on this one so expect Connolly to partner Connor Taylor in a back four.
Completing the defence should be Nick Anderton at left-back. The 25-year-old put a solid shift in on Tuesday and may not have earned the plaudits but deserves another start.
Paul Coutts missed a penalty on Tuesday and was told that he probably won’t be on one again all season but that was only a small gloss of his performance on Tuesday. Coutts is the captain of the team so he should start.
Barton has made a few comments that Sam Finley hasn’t been 100% in previous games but he’s built up match fitness now by playing a consecutive run of games.
Joey sounded optimistic in his pre-match press conference about Antony Evans and his potential availability. He was cautious when he brought him off against Oldham but when a player like Antony is available you play him.
If Evans’ is included and back in that ten role then you have to try and accommodate on-loan midfielder Elliot Anderson, who put in a fine display on Tuesday, so dropping him would be harsh.
He could replace Sam Nicholson on the right flank as he can also play as a wide midfielder with Harry Anderson, who scored in the week on the other.
Another game, another goal for Aaron Collins, who scored with a sublime strike from distance.
He has led the line so well on his own and could do with an attacking partner to support him, but there have so far been injuries to Leon Clarke and Ryan Loft.
Clarke was given a cameo earlier this week whilst Loft is also in line to be a part of the match day squad. Neither perhaps should start given the form of Collins and the desire to blend them in slowly.
Bristol Rovers (4-2-3-1): James Belshaw; Luca Hoole, Connor Taylor, James Connolly, Nick Anderton; Sam Finley, Paul Coutts; Elliot Anderson, Antony Evans, Harry Anderson, Aaron Collins.