Joey Barton reveals key area Bristol Rovers need to address after ‘relegated’ claim

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An area of concern for Bristol Rovers stands between success and failure for Joey Barton

Joey Barton says that his Bristol Rovers team are capable of either promotion or relegation after their 4-3 defeat to Exeter City. The Gas came from two goals down to go 3-2 in front but conceded goals in the final five minutes and in stoppage time.

Sam Nombe put the Grecians in front and Archie Collins added to their lead, but in the second half, Aaron Collins was on target for the 12th time this season, and also set up Josh Coburn to get Rovers level. The influential Collins, one of the most creative players in the English Football League, was then fouled for a penalty, in which Scott Sinclair dispatched.

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Rovers could not hold on however as Barton’s youthful side conceded to Timothee Dieing, and then Nombe struck his second of the game. It is the second consecutive defeat in a row, after an unbeaten run that was at six games before defeat on Boxing Day and now tonight.

Barton’s side have the fifth-best attack in the league with 38 goals scored but have shipped 41, which is the third-highest in the division. Second-from-bottom Forest Green Rovers and Burton Albion, hovering above the relegation zone, are the only teams to have conceded more.

"We’ve got to score more than one goal to win a game at this moment in time," said Barton. "We don’t keep clean sheets, you have to score multiple goals. I think the front side of our team is certainly capable of getting promoted and the back side of our team at this moment in time is capable of getting relegated with the amount of goals we ship. "The Jekyll and Hyde of our group is the most annoying thing at the minute. You fix one thing and the other thing doesn’t go quite right."

The January transfer window opens in three days’ time and will present an opportunity to change the squad. The plan is to move players off of the books that are struggling to make the match-day squad, with money reinvested in the squad for new players.

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As it stands, they can sign two new players as per EFL rules, and position is an area that could be focused on over the next month. Rovers have two on-loan defenders Bobby Thomas and Lewis Gibson from Burnley and Everton respectively, with Lewis Gordon and James Gibbons signed from Brentford and Port Vale in the summer.

"In a couple of days, the transfer window will open, we need to improve the defence," stated Barton. "If we improve the defence we’ve got a chance of getting involved in the glory at the end of the season.

"If we keep defending and conceding goals at this moment in time, we’re just going to be huffing and puffing. It was exciting if you were a neutral, but once you get yourself 3-2 in the lead you’ve got to have a bit of nouse and savvy. Some of our decisions at key moments are what cost us.

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