Joey Barton felt his Bristol Rovers team were hard done by in their Carabao Cup defeat at Crawley Town
Bristol Rovers fielded a strong team for the first-round tie, with just one change from the side which won 4-0 at Burton Albion at the weekend.
James Gibbons was absent through injury after sustaining an injury in the 4-0 win over Burton Albion which has ruled him out for the upcoming game against Oxford United and potentially a few more weeks.
The Gas lost to a goal in the second-half from former striker Tom Nicholls - who didn’t have the most successful of periods at the Memorial Stadium - haunting his former side by knocking them out of the Carabao Cup.
Barton felt the goal should not have counted, though, pointing to a handball by Jack Powell in the build-up
“I’m not sure what constitutes handball these days,” he said in his assessment of the match.
“The lad doesn’t know much about it but clearly uses the arm and gains an advantage from it.
“If that’s not a handball leading to an advantage, I’m not sure what that is.
“I’m not sure what the rule is these days. They probably change it from this week to last week as they normally do.
“Maybe the ref was the wrong side, maybe he didn’t see it.
“Obviously, we’ve still got to defend better at that point.
“From us, we’ve got to create more and certainly trouble their goalkeeper a bit more.”
Barton said he was also ‘disappointed with the level of performance’ from his side, although he pointed to the mitigating circumstance of a ‘small squad’.
"There were times the press was co-ordinated and it led to some opportunities but I don't think we were good enough with those opportunities – whether it was the final pass or the final bit of control.
"The lads have put some good balls in and the strikers have got to be disappointed, especially the lads who haven't got off the mark yet. “We are playing League Two opposition in the league cup. You want to get that first goal.
“I thought we were a little bit wasteful, especially considering how offensive they [Crawley] were.
“The defensive positioning, we were guilty of not using the ball as widely as we could. If you don’t do that and the game is still 0-0, you can always leave yourselves open.”
Barton admitted League One is the ‘priority’ but he ‘tried to progress in the cup’, adding: “We picked a side with only one change so it was more than enough to go and win that game.
“Tonight, we just weren’t good enough and we are out of the league cup.
“We had to pick that group tonight. The alternative is under 16s, 17s, 18 year-olds, which wouldn’t be fair on the competition.
“For us, we are disappointed to go out tonight and for the travelling fans who turned up tonight to support us.
“We tried to respect the competition as much as we could by picking the only team we’ve got, never mind the strongest team.
“The reality of it is, we’ve got to dust ourselves down and pick ourselves back up for three tough games coming up.”
Barton said his squad needs at least ‘six or seven’ more players, with work underway ‘to get something done this week’.
“Tonight shows that,” he said. “If we had more bodies, we could have rotated a little bit and taken the steam out of the starting lads for the weekend.
“At this moment we don’t have that luxury and we are working hard to change that.”