Bristol Rovers verdict: Luke McCormick shows promise and Joey Barton’s Wembley dream

Another positive night under the floodlights for Bristol Rovers after their EFL Trophy win

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Bristol Rovers progressed to the knockout stage of the EFL Trophy after comfortably beating Swindon Town 3-0 at the Memorial Stadium.

Second-half goals from Ryan Loft, Harry Anderson, and Luke McCormick secured the Gas’ place in the knockout stages of the Papa John’s Trophy at the hands of nine-men Swindon.

Ciaran Brennan received his marching orders just after the half-hour mark for his second yellow card, and teammate Ricky Aguiar followed down the tunnel just before half-time, receiving a straight red card after a foul on captain for the night, Alfie Kilgour.

Rovers had the man advantage, and on 63 minutes the goal advantage when Sylvester Jasper fed the ball through to Ryan Loft, with goals from Harry Anderson and Luke McCormick cementing the win.

McCormick getting up to speed

McCormick’s netted his first goal since his permanent move from AFC Wimbledon in the summer and one that was well deserved after a terrific performance.

The 23-year-old scored six on loan at the club from Chelsea in the 2020/21 season and was a fan favourite despite the majority of Gasheads never seeing him play live as a result of the pandemic.

This time around, however, McCormick has had to contend with Antony Evans coming off of the season of his career last time out in league two and Joey Barton is yet to figure out how to fit the two of them in the same team.

With a huge tie against Plymouth Argyle on the horizon, McCormick has put a good case forward for his start, after his best game in a Rovers shirt this season.

The midfielder was unplayable, regularly picking up the ball from deep, using his arsenal of skills to beat his man and drive into the Swindon penalty box and his sweet finish in the final ten minutes of the game rounded off a great performance, with a much-rotated side.

Barton’s stance on the competition changes

A fortnight ago, Barton ago contemplated playing a youthful team after his frustration of injuries against his first-team players against Crystal Palace. He wasn’t too complimentary about the competition and its format but now things are looking rosier, his outlook has changed on things.

Ten changes were made coming into the game, with only Bobby Thomas keeping his place in the starting eleven from the Gas’ 4-1 victory over Cheltenham on Saturday.

However, despite Barton’s admission of not prioritising the competition, the promise of knockout football and a cup run for his side prompted him to make a triple substitution with just over 20 minutes to go.

First-team regulars Sam Finley, Antony Evans, and Aaron Collins were all brought onto the pitch with the Gas a goal ahead to secure the victory and take the Gas into the knockout rounds of the cup.

After the game, Barton said: “It’s a chance to progress in the competition. We’re in it so we might as well try and get to Wembley.”

Due to finishing second in their group, the Gas will face an away tie yet to be announced on the 22nd or 23rd of November.

Ryan Loft’s game continues to grow

It was a tough start at Bristol Rovers for Loft, yet the striker continues to grow from strength to strength.

His services were acquired in January from Scunthorpe and with the unbelievable form his new side were on in the second half of the season, his chances were limited.

However, his goal last night made it six goals in 14 this season, and he looks like a very competent striker at League One level.

His chip over Solomon Brynn was the highlight of his game, after being brought on at half-time, but the pressing side to his game goes for the most part, unnoticed as well as that aerial presence for Joey Barton’s side.

After the match, Joey Barton admitted that Loft showed a side of his game that he didn’t think he add in him. “It was a really good finish from Lofty,” the 40-year-old admitted. He looks like a striker full of confidence. I didn’t know he had that in the repertoire, that little dink. I’m really pleased for him.

Ever-changing formation

Barton has spoke monumentally this season about his side’s ability to be fluid and this was no different. His side started in what looked to be 4-3-3, however, there were changes almost instantly with Swindon looking to target Trevor Clarke aerially who was up against Tyrese Shade.

Trevor Clarke and Luca Hoole were then switched mid-way through the first half to negate that threat up until halftime.

There were changes at the break with Ryan Loft coming on for Jerry Lawrence, and the Gas switching to a 5-2-1-2 with Harry Anderson coming in at right-wing-back and Sylvester Jasper coming in behind Loft and Josh Coburn.

The tactical change from Barton worked, with Loft opening the scoring and Harry Anderson being on the scoresheet from deeper.