Joey Barton facing Bristol Rovers selection dilemmas as quality continues to grow in Gas squad

The 39-year-old has spoken of how the task of naming a strong 11 and substitute has become tricky given the competition in the squad with players missing out.

<p>Healthy competition is growing in the Bristol Rovers ranks (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)</p>

Healthy competition is growing in the Bristol Rovers ranks (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton says the quality of his squad is making team selection difficult for him as key players make a return from injury and others stake a claim for a starting berth.

The Gas boss was able to rotate his side in the win against Barrow on Tuesday with key players like Aaron Collins, Sam Finley and captain Paul Coutts all dropped to the bench.

As such, the likes of Leon Clarke and Glenn Whelan came in, having patiently waited for their chance for an opportunity.

Before Tuesday’s game, Barton would only make enforced changes and named a like-minded team for each fixture, naming a consistent team.

But with players such as Jon Nolan now fully available whilst other players are shining, choosing an 11 as well as a quality bench becoming an increasingly difficult task

“The bench is starting to get stronger and it’s not only getting more difficult to pick a starting XI but your bench,” he said.

“There is real competition for places to get in the matchday squad now. For me as a manager, they become problems and you need to manage and make sure you keep everybody psychologically and emotionally connected to what the squad and the team are trying to do, but also for us it is a case of rotation.

“I don’t believe in it. I believe in players playing in that regular football rhythm and if they are lacking in energy or they’ve had a knock, injury or suspension then we’ll use the squad to jockey the positions of the team around.

“For me, if you’re in my team and you do well, I’ve been a player myself and you don’t want to come out of the team when you’re playing well and you’ve got a good team that you’re in and you feel in good fettle and good form.

“The last thing you want is the manager to rest you and rotate you all the time because you lose that consistency and continuity. For us, if it’s not broken we won’t be fixing it, but also if there is an opportunity to freshen it up we’ve got more than 11 good players and we’ll do that.”

Play-off chasing Newport County are the opponents on Saturday and should a positive result come their way, they could overtake them and take a place in the top seven.

Rovers have recently found themselves playing against in-form teams such as Sutton United, Mansfield Town and Exeter City, picking up respectable results.

Newport however are a team with just one win in their last five matches, whilst Barton’s men are unbeaten in their last six, with five clean sheets.

In the last meeting between the two sides in October, former Rovers striker Dominic Telford scored a brace to secure a 3-1 win at the Memorial Stadium.

Since then a lot has changed with a change in personnel with signings made in January, whilst Newport have also made amendments to their playing squad.

“We’ve come on an enormous amount as a team since that day so we’re looking forward to the game,” said Barton.

“They’ve probably got as good a pitch as us at their stadium and I think it’s another good test for our team. I think we’ve been lucky in recent weeks.

“We’ve played pretty much everybody who was at the top of the form table and we’ve become used to playing the teams riding high in the division. In the midst of that, we’ve become one of those teams.

“They’ve changed style recently. Last time they played us, they were ahead of us and they beat us on that day. They were playing a back three, a 3-4-1-2, and watching them in the past couple of days, they’re playing a 4-2-2-2.”