Joey Barton says that the playing surface at Colchester United affected Bristol Rovers’ in playing their normal game. The Gas clinched a late 2-1 win in Essex thanks to a late winner from Harvey Saunders.
Rovers avoided an upset at the JobServe Community Stadium and booked their place into the last 16 of the competition. Barton’s side are now three games from Wembley and are into the hat for Thursday afternoon’s Round Three draw.
Their win against Colchester was far from straightforward however and they had to wait until the second half to open the scoring through James Connolly.
Connolly snatched a goal from Bobby Thomas after the on-loan Burnley centre-back had headed it toward goal. Seven minutes from time, Freddie Sears scored the U’s equaliser after his low shot deflected off the former Cardiff City centre-back. Saunders however popped up with an instinctive finish, profiting off of a defensive mix-up between goalkeeper and defender.
“It should have been safer,” admitted Barton to BBC Radio Bristol in his post-match summary. “We had the game in control. We were guilty of spurning a number of really good opportunities on the counter-attack to get that second goal and put the tie beyond them.
“Credit to Colchester they were brave and played a lot more aggressive in terms of putting bodies forward when they were one behind. They got their rewards, a bit of a defensive mix-up. We exposed ourselves and we were a little unlucky with the deflection and Belly (James Belshaw) has got no chance.
“Credit to the lads for picking themselves up and going on and winning the tie and not requiring penalties.”
Bristol Rovers made six changes from their 1-0 win over Peterborough United but included several important players such as Aaron Collins, Bobby Thomas and captain Sam Finley. Ryan Loft made a welcomed return, but made way at half-time for Josh Coburn.
In terms of the match, Rovers created more opportunities and had 16 shots with seven on target to Colchester’s one from 10 attempts. Rovers had their fairer share of possession with 57% and played more passes with 420 to Colchester’s 308.
The playing surface at Colchester was described as ‘tricky’ by the Rovers boss however, who said that it affected the Gas’ normal game. Antony Evans did find joy on several occasions with through passes but several times the ball did not travel as smoothly as Rovers’ attacking players would have liked.
He said: “You have to give Colchester credit, it’s a tricky pitch. I was saying to the lads warming up on it it’s very soft and cut-up quite deeply which can affect the quality of the passing.
“With the greatest respect to them, I came off the Mem on Saturday which is a carpet and a fantastic pitch. It’s not a bad pitch but it’s certainly not conducive towards playing good free-flowing passing football on the ground.
“Colchester won’t mind that as that’s not really what they do. For us, it was about managing the game. We should have done it with a bit more control but on the flip side of that, the name of the game in the cup is progression and we have managed to do that.”