Bristol Rovers to stick with attack-minded formation as Joey Barton rubbishes pressure talk

The Gas manager remains upbeat and has a commitment to entertaining football at the Memorial Stadium

Joey Barton has admitted that he is likely to stick with his new formation of 3-4-3 for Bristol Rovers in the long-term, despite a difficult first outing against Lincoln City.

In his post-match press conference, Barton admitted his desire to keep to an attacking mind-set, but were hamstrung by several players missing through injury and suspensions.

The Gas conceded six goals at home to Lincoln City, who were only two places above them before the two met in the West Country on Saturday afternoon.

On-loan duo Bobby Thomas missed out with the Burnley defender missing through suspension, whilst Gibson missed out over a minor injury which has kept him sidelined over the past few weeks. First choice centre-back James Connolly was also not in the squad, through a long-term injury.

It left him with the difficult choice of choosing a defence and he opted to deploy player-coach Glenn Whelan in a central three alongside Luca Hoole - shoed in from right-back and Lewis Gordon, moved in from the left-hand side of the defence.

“If you have Bobby Thomas, Lewis Gibson and James Connolly, you don’t have a problem for that team,” he said when asked how he could sure up the defence.

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“That’s the shape we want to play, we’ll be playing 3-4-3. I think it is the future, I have utilised it to good effect in the division before.

“I just believe in attack. I’m a boxer in the middle of the ring that wants to throw punches. I don’t want to be on the ropes counter-punching. My teams aren’t ever built that way and there might be some games like that.”

Saturday’s defeat to Lincoln saw Rovers drop in to the drop zone, placing them in 21st, above fellow newcomers Forest Green Rovers on goal difference. Burton Albion and Morecambe finally claimed their first wins of campaign to put the pressure on.

It made it four defeats in five games with their last win coming over a month ago against Oxford United in what was just their third game of the league campaign.

In their winless run, they have gone to Ipswich Town and Portsmouth, two clubs yet to taste defeat in the league, as well as promotion hopefuls Barnsley, with close-run results at the former two.

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Despite dropping into the relegation zone and going countless matches without a victory, there is no feeling of pressure at Rovers at the moment with the injury and suspension crisis adding context to their streak of defeats.

He said: “I’m lucky I’ve got an owner that would let me lose fifty or sixty games because believes in what we do so much. I don’t feel that kind of pressure. Seven games, one of them is an EFL Trophy game that no one cares about.

“We’ve been to Ipswich, Portsmouth and Barnsley which would be hard if you went with your strongest group. We’ve gone there under-manned. To the outside world that sounds like excuses but I have great belief in our boys, great belief that when we get the strength of our group back and our square peg for square holes.

“I don’t worry for what the future holds. We know what we’re doing, it’s not perfect at the moment, the fans are with it, the players are growing with us.”