‘It stings’ - Joey Barton on Bristol Rovers loss v MK Dons but hails ‘application’’

The Gas manager had an upbeat attitude despite a fourth straight loss
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Joey Barton lamented his sides’ lack of productivity in the final third as Bristol Rovers lost 2-0 to a street-wise MK Dons at the Memorial Stadium.

Former Bristol City striker Mo Eisa opened the scoring in the third minute as he dispatched a penalty after being fouled by Liverpool loanee Jarell Quansah. Eisa was a thorn in the Gas’ side as he set up substitute Max Dean for the insurance goal in stoppage time.

Rovers had 61% possession but Sam Finley’s speculative effort was their only shot on target from six attempts. The Dons meanwhile breached Ellery Balcome’s goal twice and also hit the target two other times from 11 attempts.

Barton’s side have now suffered three consecutive defeats in League One, and four across all competitions. Rovers have fallen out of the top half and have been overtaken by Charlton Athletic in 12th, with the table taking shape after teams played their games in hand. They are in the middle with 10 points separating them from the play-offs, but also the relegation zone.

“I thought we had loads of the ball without purpose,” admitted Barton in his assessment. Which is becoming a theme and we must be better. "It’s tough, you work hard all week to give our fans a good account of ourselves, certainly after the disappointment from last week. Within thirty seconds you concede a penalty and you’re chasing your tail a little bit.

"I can’t fault the lads’ effort and application. They were brave and still trying to do the right things. There is some good spells and good moments in there. If you don’t win games of football they don’t get remembered and you obviously get disappointed.

“The second goal chasing the game to get back in it and you get sucker-punched on the counter.  It’s disappointing losing three games to the bottom five and six. It stings but we have to stick together, keep scrapping away and we could get drawn into a fight we don’t want to get involved in.”

Rovers have a target of 52 points to achieve this season and are five wins away from achieving what was set out of them at the start of the campaign. They entered the division as a newly-promoted side and endured a difficult start before going on an unbeaten run from October onwards.

Other teams in the division are building up a run of form, whilst for Rovers their confidence has taken a hit from their recent run of defeats. Defeats to the likes of Accrington Stanley, Morecambe, and MK Dons, who are battling for their lives at the bottom, have derailed their promotion push.

He said: "I think you have runs in the season, certainly when you’re a newly promoted side where things maybe go for you and you give a great account of yourself. You’re going to have bad spells and blips, the key is your good spells last long and your bad spells don’t last so long.

"For us to lose three on the spin, four if you include the cup game it’s four, that’s not acceptable. To do ourselves justice we need to be a bit more productive in the final third with the amount of ball we got and not so much playing in front of the opposition team."