Joey Barton explains Bristol Rovers selection surprise as talisman dropped

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Bristol Rovers will do without their top scorer and top assister against Charlton Athletic and Joey Barton explains his reasoning.

Joey Barton says he has no doubts about Jed Ward after he was recalled from his loan at Hungerford Town and named in Bristol Rovers' squad against Charlton Athletic.

Ward has been statistically one of the leading goalkeepers in the National League South with Hungerford, despite their lowly position in the table. The 19-year-old had been allowed to depart the Memorial Stadium to get pitch time, but injuries have meant that he is now required.

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Brentford goalkeeper Ellery Ballcombe has a slight knock and does not make the 18-man match-day squad, whilst Anssi Jaakkola is also unavailable for selection. It makes James Belshaw the only senior option at the club and there is a hope that he can avoid either an injury or a red card.

“Ansss has just felt his calf and I’ve got no doubt in Jed’s quality,” said Barton in his pre-match interview with BBC Radio Bristol. “Jed was out getting some valuable games and experience and he’s done superb there. We would have left him there if Anss would have been fit. If Anss is not fit then for me Ellery’s got a little bit of a problem with his knee at the minute and he’s not fit.

“Jed naturally comes in and hopefully we don’t see him because that means James Belshaw’s having a great game and fit and healthy. I’d have no worries at all if Jed is called upon because I think highly of him and he’s going to be a top goalkeeper.”

Aaron Collins dropping to the bench was the other surprise that the 40-year-old made with his team selection. Collins, who has 15 goals and 11 assists this season, had started the last 37 matches in League One, but will have to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.

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Explaining his decision, Barton said: “For us, Josh’s hold-up play in his back to goal is something we really think we’ll need in this game. He’s just come off a bit of a freshening up period himself. He’s now looking full of energy and full of beans

He added: “I think Azza has started every game in the league for us so far. We’ve just changed the role for this game and as I say we go again on Monday and we need everybody’s full energy and application if we’re going to take maximum points out of these next two games.”

Bristol Rovers (4-3-3): James Belshaw; Luca Hoole, James Connolly, Lewis Gibson, Lewis Gordon; Grant Ward, Lamare Bogarde, Sam Finley; Antony Evans, Josh Coburn, Scott Sinclair.

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