‘Concerning’: Joey Barton delivers this verdict on Bristol Rovers win v Cheltenham

Bristol Rovers claimed a New Year’s Day victory over Cheltenham Town - but Joey Barton wasn’t completely pleased.

Joey Barton was concerned with an element of Bristol Rovers’ performance despite a 2-1 win over Cheltenham Town. Aaron Collins and Josh Coburn were on target as the Gas opened up the New Year with victory, but Alfie May scored a goal that made for a nervy finish.

Rovers raced into a two-goal advantage, with Collins scoring with a neat finish, before providing Coburn with his eighth goal of the season, which made it 10 assists for the campaign, and 13 goals for the Welshman.

It looked like a potential repeat of the away match at Whaddon Road, where they went in four goals at the break. Rovers created plenty of chances, and were dominant in how they played. Three minutes into the second-half however and almost a repeat of the goal at Wycombe Wanderers, James Connolly cheaply gave away the ball, and May punished him, which made for a nervy end.

In the first-half, Rovers completed 260 passes, attempting 307, which was considerably more than Cheltenham’s 77, with 121 in total. Rovers changed in the second half however and it was even, with Cheltenham shading them with 84 to 75, with 146 in total for Rovers and 138 for Wade Elliott’s side.

The surface at the Memorial Stadium came under the spotlight from the manager but also reserved praise for their side to get the job done.

“It was a game of two halves from our perspective," said Barton. "I thought first-half on a really poor pitch, I think it is c**p at the minute, with too much rain, very soft on the foot, and not really conducive with the type of football we want to play.

“Our lads have had arguably the best passing performance, statistically it is in all of our time at the club. In the first half we had 450 passes, 2-0 up, and looked like scoring a third, fourth and fifth. Cheltenham were pretty much sat on the halfway line and they had no antidote to what we were doing.

"I gave the lads praise at half-time and more of the same and within three minutes of the second half, we’ve managed to have a brain fart and give them an opportunity to gain momentum, and belief to get back in the game.

“Credit to the lads, they got the job done as tetchy as it was out there, it’s about taking three points and getting the job done. We haven’t completed 100 passes in the second half, to go from one extreme to the other is a little bit concerning for me."

The victory put Rovers up to tenth, and are just four points off of the play-offs, with Wycombe Wanderers ahead of them. Survival had been the first objective with 52 points as the target, and they are just six wins from reaching that.

Cheltenham meanwhile are at the other end in 18th and are six points above the relegation zone. Despite the victory, Barton picked out that had they been playing a team in the top half of the table, the game may have been different. The capitulation of the defeat to Exeter City was used as an example, having conceded two goals in five minutes and additional time.

“When we get the ball down and play I think we are more than a match for anybody at this level," Barton stated. "When we kick it long and we panic, we are really in the bottom echelons of these teams at this level.

"Credit to Cheltenham, they asked questions and kept scrapping. With the greatest of respect to them, they should have been put in the ground four or five nil.

“We’ve been guilty of giving them a leg up early in the second half. We were a bit tetchy and nervy, against better teams, the teams in the top ten or eight, you’re having to defend more manfully and you’ve maybe dropped two points there, as we found out in the Exeter game. Lessons to learn, but a good start in terms of winning the New Year, first-half excellent, second half, a lot of work to do.”