Bristol Rovers predicted XI vs Colchester United - Sam Finley starts despite suspension cloud over him

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Joey Barton is unlikely to change his Bristol Rovers team much but there are still some selection calls to be made

Bristol Rovers continue to approach the League Two games quick and fast as they welcome Colchester United to the Memorial Stadium.

The Gas, just outside of the playoffs on goal difference, play their final midweek fixture of the season, knowing that maximum points are needed if they are to keep in the promotion picture.

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A comfortable 3-0 win against Harrogate Town on Saturday leaves little room for any changes to be made, though the manner of the performance wasn’t as clear cut as the scoreline reflects.

With Colchester United posing a different threat, here is how we think Joey Barton will line up against the U’s this evening.

Goalkeeper

An injury to Anssi Jaakkola in training means that James Belshaw is currently unchallenged for the first-team spot. Young goalkeeper Jed Ward has been recalled but at this point of the season, experience is needed.

Belshaw kept two clean sheets against his former club and now has 13 for the season, cementing himself as one of the league’s best goalkeepers.

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Defence

Towards the end of the match against Harrogate, centre-back James Connolly suffered a few bangs, but there is no worries about his status for the match. He’s more than coped with the demands of two games a week.

As always, he’s expected to partner fellow loanee Connor Taylor, as the pair continue to rack up clean sheets.

At right-back is Luca Hoole, who continues to go from strength to strength in the role in his first season in senior football.

On the opposite flank is Nick Anderton, who other than Harry Anderson who can play there, doesn’t have a rival to challenge him for it. Despite that Anderton has been solid at the back and is also capable of going forward.

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Both Elliot and Harry Anderson have performed well in recent weeks for Bristol Rovers. Both Elliot and Harry Anderson have performed well in recent weeks for Bristol Rovers.
Both Elliot and Harry Anderson have performed well in recent weeks for Bristol Rovers. | Cory Pickford/SussexWorld

Midfield

Whilst Saturday’s win looked comprehensive, it was a weird game and for the first half hour, the midfield struggled to get into any kind of passing rhythm, not helped by the wind.

But for two brilliant moments, they used their nouse and from two quickly taken free-kicks they created two good goals.

Paul Coutts drew praise from Joey Barton in his pre-match presser, for how the midfielder conducts himself. Coutts is a leader and these ten cup finals need someone like him to lead a youthful team through them.

Alongside Coutts should be Sam Finley, a player that has been consistent throughout his time at the club. If he can get through these next couple of games without a booking then he’ll get through the cut-off and avoid any two-match suspensions in what is a pivotal point of the season.

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A talking point as of late has been on how to accommodate Elliot Anderson and Antony Evans as both can lay acclaim to the ten role.

Anderson on Saturday played mainly out wide and that is how he cut inside the box with his skill. Evans meanwhile sat a little bit deeper but seemed to be everywhere and that is perhaps what we’ll see this evening.

Harry Anderson meanwhile didn’t impose himself on the game like he has done in previous matches but with Sam Nicholson still absent, it is likely he’ll continue to play with Harvey Saunders and Luke Thomas his only other rivals.

Forward

Aaron Collins is now in his best career season after scoring his 12th and 13th goals of the season. He’s flourishing as the focal point of the team and has reinvented himself over a short space of time.

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Back in November, he looked short of confidence but now he’s attempting and successfully scoring with chipped goals.

At any other point of the season, a lack of an out-and-out number nine would have come as a worry but with the Welshman’s form those fears have been removed.

Collins’ form has had a bit of an impact on Ryan Loft, who hasn’t been able to get in the side given the desire to play with one forward. Collins does move out to the left when the January signing is brought on but so far he has been unable to make an impact.

Whilst Collins is on form that is fine but at some point, Loft is going to have to deliver when he’s called upon.

Bristol Rovers (4-2-3-1): James Belshaw; Luca Hoole, James Connolly, Connor Taylor, Nick Anderton; Sam Finley, Paul Coutts; Antony Evans, Elliot Anderson, Harry Anderson; Aaron Collins.

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