How Bristol Rovers mind games fooled Derby County pantomime villain

The Gas used a tactic that have been used by the likes of Chelsea to get back on level terms against Derby County.

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Joey Barton was delighted with Bristol Rovers’ ability to master the dark arts after they successfully converted their penalty against Derby County.

The Gas trailed Derby for the majority of the match after David McGoldrick’s opener in the third minute. McGoldrick scored after being left unmarked from 12 yards out, but after his goal Rovers were firmly on top and dominated possession, but just could not break down the Rams defence.

Rovers though got what they deserved as they were awarded a chance from 12 yards after Harvey White was adjudged to have fouled Antony Evans in stoppage time. Evans, who is the club’s designated penalty taker earned the penalty, but it was John Marquis who had his hands on the ball. From the dugout, Barton hoped that Evans would take it, but instead, he was left applauding Marquis’ quick thinking to help get one over Joe Wildsmith, who wound down the clock several times with stoppages.

Marquis picked up the ball when the penalty was awarded, and having scored against Charlton from their last penalty, he was able to out-wit the Derby goalkeeper by making him think it would be him to take it. Evans, however, stood forward and kept his nerve to hit a wonderful penalty in front of the Thatcher’s End.

"You fancy Antony with the ball in his hands to do what he wants with it," said Barton. John’s got the ball and not let the keeper prepare. The keeper thinks John’s going to take it because he scored a penalty last time out against Charlton.

"I’m worried about who’s going to take it, is John going to grab this? I’d prefer Antony to take it, no disrespect to John because you know his quality on it. Antony sticks it away with aplomb and the keeper Wildsmith has absolutely no chance with the velocity and accuracy of that penalty."

He added: "You never know what’s going on because people have got hold of the ball. I’m like I hope Antony is taking this because he’s the penalty taker. If John would have decided to take it, he slotted it last time out. From us, you’re never sure what they’re doing and you’re hoping they’re being really sensible with their thinking.

"As it transmitted with the group, John’s in control and he’s going to hand the ball over to Antony and he does, and he sticks it away. I’m really pleased with the lads, you do see with some teams where the last penalty taker is squabbling that they want to take the pen but thankfully and fortunately we’ve not got that type of group. Fair play to the lads they sorted it out and put it in the back of the net."

Evans’ penalty was his fifth goal of the campaign, and he had to come off the bench to convert it, whereas last season he was one of the leading players for Rovers. The 24-year-old has eight goal contributions in what is his first full taste of League One, and whilst he hasn’t been able to reach the heights of last season, he can treat this season as a platform to build on, as Rovers hope to go one better.

"He’s a big player and he grows into the pressure Evo," said Barton. It’s what Antony’s capable of, his first season properly in League One, he’ll go from strength to strength. He’s been okay this year, he hasn’t lit it up like last year but also this is a big step up for those boys.”