Joey Barton makes ‘improvement’ promise after Bristol Rovers win against Cheltenham Town

The Bristol Rovers manager has looked back at a game-changing 2022 and expressed his hopes for the rest of the season.

Joey Barton insisted ‘the best is yet to come’ from Bristol Rovers after they got their new year off to an impressive start with Cheltenham Town.

Barton’s men looked well on their way to a comfortable win when Aaron Collins and Josh Coburn both scored for the second consecutive game to give their side a two-goal advantage when the half-time whistle was blown. However, the visitors were handed a route back into the game just three minutes into the second-half when James Connolly’s poor pass was seized upon by Alfie May and the striker produced a devastating finish to reduce the arrears.

Rovers showed plenty of grit and determination to hold on to their lead and ensure they remain within four points of the play-off places ahead of Saturday’s visit to struggling Cambridge United. After the game Barton reflected on a ‘fantastic’ 2022 and looked forward to seeing more improvement from his side over the second half of the season.

He said: “It’s a great start to the new year and a finish to what was a fantastic year. 85 points, 96 or 97 goals, promotion, a club turned from 90th in the pyramid in terms of results to fifth or sixth or wherever we are now, fourth after those two defeats.

“Stadium full back-to-back, Gasheads are happy, just got to keep getting better and do more of the same. The best is yet to come. We’ve got so much improvement to come as a team, as a football club so (we) can’t wait to get stuck in but that’s the perfect start.”

Barton praised defender Connolly for his reaction to the error that handed Cheltenham an opportunity to mount a comeback with a poor error just minutes after the interval.

Joey Barton could dip into the transfer market for a new goalkeeper in January.
Joey Barton could dip into the transfer market for a new goalkeeper in January.
Joey Barton could dip into the transfer market for a new goalkeeper in January.

The former Cardiff City centre-back could only find former Doncaster Rovers striker Alfie May with a pass out of defence and the Robins frontman took time to compose himself before firing a rising shot beyond James Belshaw. Barton revealed the error had proved costly for Connolly and his team-mates but was impressed with the defender’s reaction to the error.

“Beefy (Connolly) could have gone in the washing machine there, his head could have gone, he could have carried on making mistakes but he didn’t. To be fair to him, he dusted himself down, he cares deeply about his profession and his craft.

“He’s gutted in there because they were getting two days off if they kept a clean sheet. They’re not anymore so thanks Beef. But we’ve got work to do, we’ve got Cambridge coming up and they’re fighting for their lives. It’s another opportunity for us to progress our team but there’s work to do.”