Joey Barton’s assertive answer to the conundrum Bristol Rovers have with two talismanic midfielders

Joey Barton has two players of tremendous attacking ability but he has found a way to fit them both in to his Bristol Rovers side

<p>Accommodating two attacking midfielders isn’t as difficult as thought reveals Joey Barton. (Image: Cory Pickford/Sussex World)</p>

Accommodating two attacking midfielders isn’t as difficult as thought reveals Joey Barton. (Image: Cory Pickford/Sussex World)

Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton says he has no problem in accommodating both Antony Evans and Elliot Anderson in his side.

Both players’ primary position has been in the central role of the three attacking midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Barton has been accustomed to.

Since the return of Evans, both have been named in the starting line-up but Evans has either had to play as a holding midfielder like against Newport or been forced out wide.

Evans got himself on the scoresheet as a winger against Leyton Orient and as a holding player against Barrow, but against Newport he struggled alongside Glenn Whelan.

The 23-year-old who has eight goals and seven assists, mainly in his more natural role as an attacking player, was hauled off after the hour mark in South Wales.

Bristol Rovers fans remain keen to see Antony Evans put pen-to-paper on a new deal. (Image: Cory Pickford/SussexWorld)

“I think we’ve got a nice balance in there. In the Leyton Orient game, Evo played out wide to begin with and we flipped it over.

“The lads are all smart in terms of football IQ, so you can adjust them in the game. They are starting to auto-correct and self-correct during a game and recognise patterns and spaces.”

From a fan and journalist’s point of view, the naming of a starting 11 come an hour before kick-off is the moment where they try and piece together the side.

Even the slightest of changes to the team gives the hour-long task of working out how the team might line up and what formation they might play.

Antony Evans’ spell out of the side due to injury was the platform Anderson needed to showcase his ability with the teenager stepping up in his absence.

The Newcastle United loanee got two assists and a goal whilst filling in for him, taking over his role as an attacking midfielder.

And at the moment, ‘Billy’ is being preferred to Evans in that position, despite going on a run of games where he has failed to register a goal contribution.

Despite that, his manager is of the belief that there is a fluidity about the teams he names and that players can adapt to different scenarios of the match with players not bound to a certain role.

He said: “For us, the starting positions are not of major importance, really. It’s more, as we move through the phases of the game, that people recognise the structures we have as a team and some of the platforms we can build off.

“For me, it’s not hard to get good players into your team. They’re all good players and it’s just a case of putting them all in there and them all being on the same page, which they’re starting to get more and more often as we spend more time and the picture becomes clearer to them.”

Towards the end of the month, Barton will have a different problem surrounding Anderson with the 19-year-old likely to miss at least one game.

Anderson has been named in the Scotland’s under-21’s squad, where they will play against Turkey in Edinburgh and Kazakhstan in Almaty.

Rovers are due to play away at Carlisle United on the day after Scotland play Turkey, whilst there will be a lengthy round trip for the youngster to contend with when returning to the fold for the Bradford City match.

“It’s great for the lad that he’s getting international recognition,” Barton said. “It can be a bit disruptive because of the games programme.

He added: “It’s a double-edged sword as a manager. Certainly at the lower levels, you don’t really want too many internationals because when they go away there isn’t a shutdown for us, but if you do have three there is the opportunity to postpone games.

“We’ll monitor that. It’s not ideal because you want every player available, especially as we get into the nitty-gritty of the season, but you have to respect if people are called up by their countries, it’s a great achievement and you always should encourage that.

“But I’d much rather our players stay here and play for us between now and the end of the season, because we’re going to need everybody in the squad to get the job done.”