‘Some players who shouldn’t be starting for us’ - Joey Barton on Bristol Rovers loss to Forest Green

Bristol Rovers suffer defeat in their opening match as they wait for reinforcements to arrive to help address squad-depth issues

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Joey Barton has urged those associated with Bristol Rovers to be patient after their opening day loss to Forest Green Rovers.

Regan Hendry’s 89th minute goal after Aaron Collins cancelled out Jordan Moore-Taylor’s opener gave the League Two champions their first win at this level.

It meant that the Gas for the 10th season in a row began their campaign without a win with improvement expected in their next game against Burton Albion.

All four summer signings made starts including John Marquis who led the line in a slightly-changed attack from last season after Elliot Anderson’s return to Newcastle.

Sam Finley and Josh Grant were missing through injury which gave opportunities to others though Barton admitted he was forced to play some players he may not have started.

“People in those forward positions need to work together to figure out what each is likely to do,” Barton said in his post-match press conference.

“The attack runs more efficiently if that is the case and we have got a lot of players building new relationships. There’s also some players here who - let’s be candid - shouldn’t be starting for us.

He later said in the conference: "If you had said to me at the end of last season Zain Westbrooke and Trevor Clarke were going to be in our starting eleven on the opening day of the season, I would have said ‘My god, we must have had a bad summer.’

The bigger teams in the division like Ipswich Town and Portsmouth have strengthened heavily this summer with Leif Davis and Colby Bishop being bought for sizeable fees at this level from Leeds United and Accrington Stanley respectively.

With Rovers going from the league favourites of League Two to one of the candidates to relegation, it has seen a change in culture for the upcoming campaign.

They are no longer the team with a target on the back with a relatively smaller budget compared to clubs who have dined in the Premier League and in Europe.

Barton was also seemingly consigned to not re-signing either Elliot Anderson or Connor Taylor with the latter starting in Stoke City’s opening Championship game with Millwall.

Anderson meanwhile started once more for the Magpies and manager Eddie Howe admitted he would like to keep him after their pre-season campaign concluded.

Barton said: “It would be nice to have some of the bigger budgets because you can force the issue. You can offer £500,000 or £1m  because that is what we are up against

“We have to be patient and there is a month to go on the window. We’re not the biggest fish in this pond and we’re a minnow. We’ve got to scrap for every point we are going to get.

“We’ve lost a point today which is the reality. We were at 1-1 and we pushed to try and get the second goal to get three points and ultimately we are undone by a real moment of quality by their boy.

“It isn’t easy to replace Connor Taylor and it isn’t easy to replace Elliot Anderson.

“On the resources and the budget that we have got we need to be smart in the market place. By the end of the window closing we will have every piece of the jigsaw that we need to be successful.

“At this moment you need to play cat and mouse to get value out of the market. Unfortunately that leaves us short, it creates opportunities for people and when you lose games of football, I don’t think any of them can come in and say that’s furthered my course.”

Despite the defeat, there were at least a few positives that Barton could reflect on in what was a close-fought encounter with their fellow promoted side.

Academy graduate Luca Hoole, who Barton admitted was undecided on whether to try as a centre-back at this level was earmarked as on of the better performers.

James Gibbons, Jordan Rossiter and John Marquis all made their debuts and were praised for the individual qualities they brought to the side.

Speaking to the official club media, he said: “There were some good performances in there with Luca Hoole at right centre-half, considering what a difficult opponent Jammille Matt can be. I was really pleased with loads of elements of some of the lads with James Gibbons coming in and Jordan Rossiter was new to the group.

“John Marquis came in to the group and has got something different. Aaron has got that monkey off his back relatively early.”

There was also a slight injury update with Josh Grant and Sam Finley both missing whilst Paul Coutts was suspended.

Finley was completely absent from the match day squad after sustaining an injury in the intra-squad friendly at the Mem last Saturday.

“We’ll monitor them during the week,” he said.

“Sam picked up a groin issue in the game we had here and it has rumbled on in the week. I took him out of the opening fixture. He will probably be pushing hard knowing Sam to be involved at Burton so we will assess that this week.