The Bristol Rovers players who could follow Zain Westbrooke out of the exit door - including injured left-back

After securing their top two transfer targets, attention will now turn to getting first-team minutes for some fringe players

<p>Joey Barton wants a good move for Jed Ward. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)</p>

Joey Barton wants a good move for Jed Ward. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Bristol Rovers are looking to get players off their books as Joey Barton tries to find the perfect balance for his squad for the second part of the season.

The Gas endured a difficult month where four games were postponed as a result of positive COVID cases, injuries and suspensions, with the squad unable to field a team of 14.

Now that has been put behind them, things are looking rosier at the Memorial Stadium with the January additions of James Connolly and Ryan Loft.

Before the match against Hartlepool on Saturday, Barton said his priority in the window will now be to get players off the books.

"For me at this moment in time, the focus will be on trimming the edge of the squad and making sure everybody here is absolutely crystal clear on what we’re doing and how we’re going to do it.

"Those guys who are maybe looking for pastures new are available to do that."

One name Zain Westbrooke was allowed to leave on loan for Stevenage earlier this week, linking up with former manager Paul Tisdale, who coached him 16 times last season in the blue and white quarters.

The 25-year-old’s departure was an unsurprising one as he has been unable to force his way into Barton’s plans and has not made a league appearance since October.

After the midfielder’s departure we take a look at other players who could be set for a departure this month.

Jed Ward

After the return of Anssi Jaakkola, as well as the exceptional performances of James Belshaw, it is unlikely that the 18-year-old will play again for Rovers this season. He played in all three of the EFL Trophy matches but after their elimination, he has had to settle for a place on the bench.

After the match with Hartlepool on Saturday, Barton namechecked him as one player who could be set for a departure.

“We’re looking for some loans for our younger players now,” he said. “With big Anssi back, we might be looking at young Jed Ward getting a loan. But to protect us they may well be confidence loans so that we can recall them should anything happen down the road.”

Usually clubs have three goalkeepers, so this means that Ward’s loan may be to a National League North or South team so he can be recalled.

Cameron Hargreaves

Academy graduate Cameron Hargreaves has 37 senior appearances for Rovers after breaking through in the 2019/20 season.

The 23-year-old though has been limited to just four matches for the Gas this season and most have come in the EFL Trophy

Loaned out to Chippenham along with Walker, he played three matches in a one month’s loan but has not played since early December.

Given his contract status, his next move may be permanent rather than a loan as he looks to make his impact in senior level football elsewhere.

An injury has kept full-back Junior Brown out but will he find a way back in to the team. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Junior Brown

The left-back is not a name that has been mentioned by Joey Barton when asked by the press about those returning.

Brown has had a thigh injury which has seen him not feature in a matchday squad since October 30.

Given he’s made just six appearances across all competitions and the emergence of Trevor Clarke, as well as Nick Anderton amongst the ranks, his time could be cut short if a player comes in for him.

Though with less than six months remaining on his deal, it may be worth keeping him at the club as a back-up option should he regain full fitness.

Zain Walker

Already this season, Walker has had two loan spells, first at King’s Lynn before a drop into the National League South with Chippenham.

Both were relatively short and with his last game coming in November, he is back in Almondsbury.

He showed promise when he made his league debut back in August 2020 so finding the right loan will be important.

Pablo Martinez

Another player who made a breakthrough in League One but hasn't found the minutes this season with Barton preferring experience is Martinez. The 21-year-old replaced Connor Taylor at half-time in the 4-2 win over Rochdale but conceded a penalty .

With Taylor likely to see out his loan as well as the return of Alfie Kilgour and the signing of James Connolly, Martinez will find it difficult to break in at centre-back. In the centre of midfield the preferred choice is Glenn Whelan, Paul Coutts and Sam Finley, so in both areas he is not the first choice.

A few month’s loan elsewhere could do him the world of good as was shown during his spell with Oxford City last season.

Jamie Egan

It’s not been announced by the club yet but 18-year-old centre-back Jamie Egan has joined National League North side Hereford on a work experience loan.

He will spend the next month on loan at Edgar Street and is the second player to be sent to Herefordshire after Ollie Hulbert’s short spell.

Depending on how successful his initial month goes there he could have it extended until at least the end of the season. Egan has not yet broken through to the first-team after joining from the Cabo Academy in August 2020 but with senior level games under his belt this could prove to be hugely beneficial to his development.