Bristol Rovers striker high on confidence as gratitude shown to Joey Barton

The Welshman is League One’s joint top scorer this term and has adapted to life at a higher level
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Aaron Collins believes he has ‘finally been able to prove’ his ability for Bristol Rovers this season, following their promotion to League One.

Collins is the joint second-top scorer in the division as it stands, with eight goals in 14 games – he has also notched six assists. His form is a stark contrast to the slow start he endured to life at the club at this point last season.

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He didn’t score until mid-November last term and had a 17-game wait before he struck against Oxford United in the FA Cup, he later went on a scoring spree. The 25-year-old recorded the best goalscoring season of his career with 17 goals in all competitions, and he is already well underway to bettering that this campaign.

He said: “I’ve been in League Two for most of my career, I came into this season off the back of promotion, off the back of my best scoring season, a new contract and just confidence. The gaffer has filled me with confidence, and I’ve finally been able to prove what I can do.”

In recent weeks Collins has been given the luxury of playing in his favourite position this season, just off of target man Ryan Loft. Collins has also been tried on the wings in various positions but has found his form again when providing support to the central strikers.

The Welshman bagged twice as the Gas defeated Cheltenham Town on Saturday, including a cool finish past Luke Southwood for the Gas’ fourth on the day. Collins provided an assist for talisman Antony Evans in what was a near-perfect display from the former Forest Green Rovers striker.

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“I’ve started the season really well. I’m going through one on one, and I know I’m scoring,” he said.

“It’s just mentally, you don’t even realise that you’re telling yourself that, but I don’t feel like I’m going to miss and long may that carry on.

“I’ve played a lot of positions this season obviously across the frontline. They’re (the coaching staff) helping me day in, day out in where they want me to be out of possession and in possession and it is paying off because I’m in the right places at the right times.”

After a positive start to the campaign, followed by a run of nine matches without a win, Joey Barton’s side have settled into 11th place in the division. The Gas brought in 10 new players in the summer transfer window, including three loans on deadline day, they have also suffered injuries to some key players in recent weeks.

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But, Collins is confident that their injury troubles may be behind them for now. He said: “We’ve had a lot of players come in, we’ve had a lot of injuries which have been frustrating. But you can see in the last three games especially we’ve made five subs every game.

“The players are coming on and finishing the job, we’ve got 16 players out there every weekend getting the three points for us.”

A return to fitness for members of the squad appears to be showing in their recent results, Barton’s side have now won their last four matches in all competitions.

Their upcoming schedule will no doubt require a greater effort from the Gas, as clashes with highflyers Plymouth Argyle, third place Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County loom.

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Collins, though, is bullish that Rovers can give a good account of themselves over the tricky period. “We’ve got three tough games, but we’ve come out of the last three games full of confidence and I think the squads firing on all cylinders at the moment,” he said.

“We are going into those games full of confidence and hopefully we can go and get a load of points out of them.”

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