Bristol Rovers v Hartlepool verdict: Not at their best but sign of a winning team

Joey Barton was upbeat after Bristol Rovers recorded their first win of 2022. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)Joey Barton was upbeat after Bristol Rovers recorded their first win of 2022. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
Joey Barton was upbeat after Bristol Rovers recorded their first win of 2022. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
The key talking points from Bristol Rovers’ 2-0 win over Hartlepool United at the Memorial Stadium

Bristol Rovers defeated Hartlepool United 2-0 at the Memorial Stadium to claim back-to-back wins in League Two.

A month may separate their last win, a 4-2 win over Rochdale and the victory over the Pools on Saturday, but there is now a feeling of optimism about Joey Barton’s men.

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Antony Evans and Aaron Collins found the back of the net in the latter stages of the match whilst James Belshaw made a number of key saves to earn the Gas the win.

We take a look at the key talking points from the match below.

Sign of a successful team

Even the most ardent Rovers fan can admit that this wasn’t the cleanest of victories. For a majority of the match it was Hartlepool who were the better side. They created the better opportunities and did more with the ball, whilst Rovers were on edge at times. It’s why the two late goals were a proper killer for Hartlepool, who came away gutted that they didn’t have anything to show for it.

A few moans and groans came from the supporters today as well as urging Joey Barton to make a sub but fortunately patience paid off.

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It’ll be interesting given how on paper the team was an attacking line up whether it’ll be persisted with or maybe we’ll see more of a reserved side against Swindon Town next week.

Ultimately the key message here is that despite Rovers not being at their best, they did something they rarely do which is keep a clean sheet and score late on to claim a win. If they can continue that against the teams around them then they might just start to climb the table.

Belshaw bails Bristol Rovers out

Where would Rovers have been today without their trusted goalkeeper James Belshaw?

Belshaw, who for most of the season has gone unchallenged in between the sticks with Jed Ward not quite ready for senior level football, put in a sublime performance today.

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Perhaps he had to after the return of Ansi Jaakkola who after a long time out has returned and was a substitute.

In the second-half, he denied the likes of Mark Cullen and Luke Molyneux on a number of occasions to keep the score level.

It was this match-winning performance that earned him the man of the match award from both BristolWorld and those in attendance today.

This was the Gas’ first clean sheet in 11 matches and an emphasis on recording more of them is the message from Joey Barton.

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"I think he’s flourished in the shirt,” Barton said in his post-match presser.

“Some players step into a jersey and the weight of the expectation or position can kind of hinder them.

"I think with Belly, it’s not only what he’s done on the pitch. I think he’s been an absolute credit to the club away from the pitch with his interaction with the young supporters. They love him.”

Collins growing in confidence

A few months ago, you’d be wondering where Collins would get his first league goal from. He had struck in the FA Cup against Oxford United but was left waiting for a first league goal.

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The 24-year-old is now a man in form with five goals in his last four matches which places him as the top scorer.

Last season he reached double figures for Forest Green Rovers, now that is the aim for the Newportonian for the second half of the season.

Before Barton showed himself to the press, match-winner Collins popped in to chat with the press and said how his confidence was growing, discussing it with his manager.

He was also asked about the newest addition Ryan Loft, who didn’t get on the mark today but played a role that brought him into the game. Collins’ preference is playing alongside a number nine in the mould of Loft as he can feed off of what is won in the air.

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A tough debut for debutant Loft

It was a winning start for Loft in his first game in the blue and white quarters but unfortunately he didn’t have a goal to show for it.

There was an opportunity for him to shoot just outside the box in the first-half but he opted to pass to Collins when perhaps shooting was the best option.

Whilst he didn’t score a goal today, he was a physical presence and imposed himself on the Hartlepool centre-backs.

Some strikers take time to get off the mark for their new club but hopefully as the games come quick and fast, he can

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