The Bristol Rovers striker conundrum as Middlesbrough hotshot hailed by ex-Portsmouth man

Bristol Rovers have multiple options up front. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)Bristol Rovers have multiple options up front. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
Bristol Rovers have multiple options up front. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
It’s been a slow start to life for one of Bristol Rovers’ marquee signings

John Marquis says he holds no complaints over the current pecking order of strikers at Bristol Rovers. Marquis is having to compete with Aaron Collins, Josh Coburn and Ryan Loft for a starting berth in the Gas squad.

Collins is the leading man with his 11 goals and seven assists this season, ranking him as the most creative player across the three divisions of the Football League. The 25-year-old has played in various positions but has led the line on several occasions.

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Rovers have reverted to playing with two strikers in recent months, the favoured partnership is Collins and on-loan Middlesbrough striker Josh Coburn. Coburn has five goals in ten League One games, and has been tipped to play for England but manager Joey Barton, whilst also earning the nickname ‘Teeside Haaland’ amongst his teammates.

Ryan Loft has also emerged from the shadows, with six goals in the current campaign, however an injury at Sheffield Wednesday has affected him. The 25-year-old has been absent for several matches.

But the emergence of Marquis has given the manager food for thought, with his recent involvement in Collins’ match-winning goal against Port Vale. For someone who at the start, was being deemed as one of the best strikers in the third tier, Marquis has admitted it’s been a frustrating time for him.

He said: “It’s been a little bit frustrating recently, I’ve come in at the start of the season and we’re struggling a little bit, and then other people pick up form.

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“We had the Exeter game where I scored and then got injured the game after, out for six or seven weeks.”

The former Portsmouth man has been fit recently, but hasn’t been able to break back into the starting lineup, mainly due to the form of the other strikers at the club.

He has had to wait for an opportunity, but took it with both hands, scoring a brace against MK Dons in the EFL Trophy. It was a second solid showing in succession after a respectable performance on the weekend.

As priorities, the cup competition is not prestigious to many players, however it has provided an opportunity for players to return from injury or with a point to prove.

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“It’s frustrating but it’s part of football and I can’t begrudge Aaron and Josh and even Lofty before his injury,” admitted Marquis. “The form of them has been exceptional and sometimes you’ve got to just be patient and bide your time and that’s why you have to be ready for when your opportunity comes along.

“There was an opportunity for me to play this evening and I just wanted to go out there and enjoy it. It’s a lot easier when the team’s doing well and the lads are confident because you’re going into a team that’s functioning very well and that’s what happened this evening.

“I’ve taken both the goals pretty well, didn’t really get a sniff for the first one which would’ve been nice but I’m happy with two and progressing to the next round.”

The striker fired his side into the quarter finals of the Papa Johns Trophy with two goals in a 4-1 win over fellow league one side MK Dons, with his side now just two games from Wembley and the cup final.

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He said: “We said today, imagine walking out at Wembley and your family’s there, your mums, your dads, your grandparents, your kids. No matter who’s there it’s a really proud moment and one that you should cherish.

“Playing in League One and League Two your opportunities are sort of this competition and the playoffs so unless we have a really good FA Cup run next year it’s going to be a tough one.”

The Gas will now face one of; Salford, Port Vale, Bolton, Lincoln, Accrington, Portsmouth, Cheltenham, Plymouth or AFC Wimbledon in their bid to play at Wembley for the first time since 2015.

Hee said: “It’s a great opportunity for us and one that we don’t want to pass us by, along with that we carry on winning games and keeping good momentum obviously helps as well.

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“With such a young squad, it’s such a great experience. I’ve played there myself and through history when Bristol Rovers have gone to Wembley they’ve travelled in amazing numbers.”

Marquis started for only the second time since early October after picking up an injury in the Papa Johns Trophy fixture with Crystal Palace Under-21s however will have put himself into consideration for Saturday’s trip to Charlton with his two second half goals.

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