Bristol Rovers verdict: Gas lack spark, set-piece frailties continue, midfield conundrum continues

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This is how Will Taylor saw the game between Bristol Rovers and Accrington Stanley as they fell to another defeat

Bristol Rovers fell to defeat once more at the hands of Accrington Stanley, with Joe Pritchard’s 54th minute header being the difference.

After a dull first half with little chances for either side it was another goal conceded against the run of play for Bristol Rovers. They came out the blocks flying at half time however Accrington took the lead less than ten minutes into the second half when a short corner was met by Joe Pritchard, who tucked the ball past Belshaw, after beating Alfie Kilgour in the air.

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Rovers threatened after going behind, but they couldn’t turn their abundance of possession into many clear-cut chances, resulting in their sixth defeat in their last eight games in all competitions.

Kilgour was given the chance to prove himself to Barton after being left on the bench last week with no appearance.

Glenn Whelan, a 38-year-old player-coach was preferred ahead of him which will have come as a slight dent to his confidence, given there was an obvious lack of recognised defenders.

Barton’s reasoning behind Whelan’s inclusion and Kilgour’s exclusion was an attempt to control the game more but they ended up conceding six goals at home with three in either half.

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Change was needed after shipping so many goals and so the academy graduate was given a chance this week with much to

The 24-year-old made a vital interception mid-way through the first half after James Belshaw lost the ball near the corner flag, the ball was crossed and Tommy Leigh was waiting to tap into an open goal if not for Kilgour’s block.

Barton has set his sides up to play out from the back, however Kilgour is more of a classic style centre back. He was throwing his body in front of every shot and looked to get the ball out of the danger zone rather than picking a pass.

Last time out the Gas went with a midfield two of Sam Finley and Anthony Evans, in what was quite an attacking style with Evans being deployed more as an attacking midfielder in his time at the club and Finley being for the most part box-to-box.

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Barton looked to change that this time out partnering Finley with club captain Paul Coutts, while Evans was dropped to the bench, in what seemed a much more balanced lineup with Kilgour being partnered in defence with Bobby Thomas, who missed the Lincoln game through suspension, and Lewis Gordon.

Gordon in particular had a difficult time last time out, in what was his first professional game at centre half. He looked to be targeted in his newfound role against the experienced Shaun Whalley but looked to be more assured partnered by two central defenders but put in a better performance this time around. He made no major errors and was assured in his performance.

Evans was dropped to the bench for the first time this season and came on just after the Gas went a goal behind, prompting a change of shape for Joey Barton’s side. Rovers’ main attacking sparks on paper are clearly Luke McCormick and Evans however both are yet to find their sparkle. Both played alongside each other last week in what was an attack-minded team but there will be a desire to find a system that can accomodate both players, as well as not losing their defensive shape.

They seem to be very similar players overall, prompting Barton to start McCormick over Evans in an attacking midfielder role. Evans was brought on with just over 20 minutes to go and McCormick was taken off just three minutes later for John Marquis prompting a tactical switch as the Gas looked to get back into the game.

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