Newport County working with depleted squad ahead of Bristol Rovers clash as former Gas player suspended

Bristol Rovers’ opponents for Saturday will be without some key players and as such the Gas could make the most of that

<p>Former Bristol Rovers defender James Clarke won’t be lining up against his former club. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)</p>

Former Bristol Rovers defender James Clarke won’t be lining up against his former club. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Bristol Rovers could be boosted by a mini selection crisis at Newport County ahead of this weekend’s crucial League Two fixture, with their opponents without a number of key personnel.

The Gas make the short trip across the Severn Bridge to face the Exiles, who occupy one of the play-off spots that they have currently have their eyes set on after a good run-of-form.

Ahead of the match, Newport have a major selection issue at the back with injuries in multiple areas including three of their centre-backs who are all unavailable due to injury which in-form Welsh man Aaron Collins will look to exploit against his former club.

James Clarke, who made over 100 appearances for the Gas between 2015 and 2019, will miss out on playing against his former side after he was sent off against Forest Green Rovers on Tuesday evening.

Clarke has been a regular figure in their back line, playing 23 times for the Gwent side this season, so his absence will be a big miss given the experience he has had at this level of the game.

As well as the 32-year-old missing out, they have also suffered two injuries to both Josh Pask and Priestley Farquharson. Pask, on loan from Coventry City, hasn’t played as many games as Clarke, being limited to just seven outings this season. Farquharson himself has played just ten matches but their absence still gives manager James Rowberry less selection to choose from.

As such, they could be forced to play left-back Ryan Haynes or defensive midfielder Scott Bennett in their back line or consider a change of formation with the injuries piling up.

As well as in defence, there are some issues in the midfield too with experienced midfielder Robbie Willmott suffering an injury against Tranmere Rovers which will keep him sidelined for the next three weeks.

That was in addition to the hamstring injury that striker Courtney Baker-Richardson suffered which will keep him out until April, coming as a blow to the Welsh side given his eight goals this season.

League Two’s top scorer Dominic Telford was once on the books of Bristol Rovers. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Newport’s defence is a fragile one as out of any team in the top 12, they have conceded the most number of goals this season with 45 shipped in 34 games. They have not kept a clean sheet in their past seven games either whilst the Gas defence has kept five in their last six matches.

What they do have however is a man in form in Dominic Telford, who once had a brief spell at the Memorial Stadium. Telford has had a major glow up this year, scoring 25 goals across all competitions this season, the game as he has done in his career so far.

The 25-year-old spent the 2017/18 season on loan at the Gas, scoring five goals in 24 appearances, but was mainly used as a substitute whilst also playing for the development team at the time.

Fortunately for Rovers, their injury issues are minimal with only Alfie Kilgour and Josh Grant unavailable at the moment but they have more than enough to contend with one of the league’s most potent strikers with a strong back line and a reliable goalkeeper.

A win on Saturday, coupled with some positive results could see them move into the play-off zone, as well as overtaking out-of-form Newport who have just one win in their last five matches. Joey Barton’s side will be backed by a sold out away end with 1,100 fans making their way to one of the shortest trips of the season.