Bristol Rovers talking points: Gas continue upward trajectory with creditable draw at Swindon

Joey Barton looks on at a recent Bristol Rovers game.Joey Barton looks on at a recent Bristol Rovers game.
Joey Barton looks on at a recent Bristol Rovers game. | Getty Images
Plenty of positives for Gasheads after the 1-1 draw at the County Ground on Saturday.

Joey Barton’s side made it three games unbeaten as they took a point back along the M4 with them following this second meeting between the two teams of the season.

Not since March 2012 have these two Western outfits drawn, but it was honours even after Tyreece Simpson’s 16th minute opening goal, before Sam Finley’s cross just missed Aaron Collins and nestled in the far corner of Lewis Ward’s goal 19 minutes later.

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Indeed, centre-back Connor Taylor also laid claim to Rovers’ goal, but eventually it was decided that the midfielder should get the credit according to official stats providers Opta.

“I thought we were superb,” Barton said of his side after the game. “I’m really pleased with the performance, coming here against a really good side. Swindon are a really good side, as we know.

“I think we showed the way we want to play. For me, I think we dominated the game. We were the team looking likely to score, we restricted them to counter-attacks and there won’t be many teams that come to this stadium here this year [that do that].”

And Barton is right. Despite not winning, there were plenty of positives for Gasheads, as their side goes three unbeaten, only losing two of their last nine league fixtures.

Fine Rovers display

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The visitors played some nice tidy football and really took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half. The Gas just missed some real quality in their attacking third play, a case in point being Ryan Loft’s second-half miscued volley to swipe at thin, cold air in front of the gleeful Alan McLoughlin Stand behind that goal.

But Barton’s side bossed the midfield for spells of this encounter and exuded a measure of control at times, although the hosts always looked a little more threatening on the break with Harry McKirdy scampering across the front line and if Simpson was able to turn and use his power.

Certainly the point was the least Rovers deserved, and according to plenty of local onlookers that was the best that Bristol Rovers have played against Swindon for some time.

Sam Finley catches the eye

Speaking to some Swindon Town supporters after the game, it was good to note that Finley caught the eye of the opposition as well as this writer’s.

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Some tidy possession was augmented by some great sweeping switches of play, with long passes out to Grant and Hoole charging on from full-back. It helped the Gas add width to their attacking, find space and stretch the well-organised home defence.

Then there was the goal, and a fine cross it was too, so fine that it ended up in the net and earned Barton’s side a well earned point from the County Ground.

Two goals and two assists from the 29-year-old is a good return from his League Two campaign to date.

Paul Coutts and Jonny Williams’ battle

Williams wins so many free-kicks - unsurprisingly the most fouled player in the Swindon side, and the fourth most fouled player in the whole division per 90 minutes of action (minimum of 10 games played).

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But some do believe that the Welshman goes down that little bit too readily. And that includes from the Swindon fans.

The midfield battle was one of the great aspects of this game, referee Tim Nield doing well to control matters as things occasionally threatened to spill out of hand, with several late lunges and no lack of commitment in the middle.

Tale of the two captains as Tom Conlon won with Port Vale whilst Paul Coutts tasted defeat. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)Tale of the two captains as Tom Conlon won with Port Vale whilst Paul Coutts tasted defeat. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Tale of the two captains as Tom Conlon won with Port Vale whilst Paul Coutts tasted defeat. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Rovers captain Coutts was one of the best in the middle, that experience of 447 games and 33 years of age coming to the fore.

His duels with Williams were a good show themselves, and along with Antony Evans, the Rovers midfield managed to get on top as the game wore on. A promising sign.

Swindon below par

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Only seven players have scored more goals than Swindon’s Tyreece Simpson, who has previously rejected the chance of a career playing rugby union with Leicester Tigers.

The on-loan Ipswich man was the star turn for the hosts, with top scorer McKirdy, a throwback with that long hair and the rolled-down socks, off colour in this contest.

But Ben Garner’s side were missing the influential attacking midfielder Jack Payne, and perhaps first choice goalkeeper and former Bristol City youth player Jojo Wollacott - absent after AFCON 2021 participation, though his Ghana have just been eliminated - would have saved Finley’s cross from their right flank.

A league competition means that when the fixtures fall will always lead to some variation and maybe the Gas timed this trip to Wiltshire well.

Swindon missed the chance to gain ground on the automatic promotion places, but the Gas continue their recent forward momentum in League Two.

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