Bristol Rovers host relegation rivals Wigan Athletic this week with new boss Joey Barton in the dugout for the first time.
Barton has joined The Gas on a two and a half year deal and with his previous stint at Fleetwood bringing a League One play off semi final, Rovers fans will be intrigued by what the former Manchester City and Newcastle midfielder can bring to North Bristol.
Barton will be assisted by Clint Hill and Andy Mangan, whom he has brought in from his previous job. Rovers assistant Jack Mesure has stepped down to a coaching role.
Barton’s appointment has raised a few eyebrows across the Rovers fanbase however owner Wael Al-Qadi has backed his new appointment to be a success.
“We are delighted to welcome Joey to Bristol Rovers and look forward to working closely with him to progress our football club forward,” Al-Qadi told the club’s website.
“Joey’s experience in the game is matched by his passion for coaching and delivering results, which made him a standout candidate for the role.
“He’s got a good knowledge of the league already thanks to his spell at Fleetwood and has shown his credentials at delivering results and getting the best out of the players he works with.
“We are confident that he will be able to continue the ongoing development of the younger players coming through the ranks at the Club and speaking to him, I know his ambitions align with what we want to achieve as a football club.
“I want to wish Joey, the staff and the players the very best of luck for the coming games, as we look to cement our safety in Sky Bet League One and build for the future.”
Barton’s first task will be to try to guide his new side away from danger and what better way to do that than by beating relegation rivals Wigan on Tuesday night.
Barton has no new injury concerns ahead of the game and with veteran midfielder Ed Upson continuing his comeback from injury through substitute appearances, competition for places is healthy.
Wigan go into the game looking to end a torrid run that has seen them win just once in their last 10 games.
The 2013 FA Cup winners have found themselves in the bottom four for the majority of the season after being left cash strapped and under administration towards the end of last term.
For the majority of the 2020/21 campaign, the Latics have fielded a mixture of senior players still on the books and youth team players in order to be able to play their fixtures but injuries have seen the latter play more than the prior and one major casualty this season has been midfielder Lee Evans.
Evans is one of three outfield players – along with Gavin Massey and Tom Pearce – remaining from last season’s Championship squad but all three have sustained long term injuries over the course of the season.
Massey returned after three months out in the loss to Lincoln last time out. Pearce is out for the season due to an ankle injury whilse Evans had been in contention to return to the side after two months out but boss Leam Richardson has provided an update on his injury status.
“He came back after the knee injury and just felt his calf in a couple of training sessions,” Richardson told Wigan Today.
“I would suggest it’ll be another two or three weeks, and it’s just the way it’s going for us at the moment.
“It’s one step forward and two back, and it’s just a colossal effort to get everyone together and just drag everyone over the hill.
“I’ve got that thankless task, so we’ll see how we get on.”
As stated before, Richardson has been boosted by the returning Gavin Massey who emerged from the bench last time out and his experience could prove vital going into the final third of the season.
Wigan will continue to monitor midfielder Chris Merrie after he was replaced at half-time during the defeat to Lincoln with a hamstring injury.
Bristol Rovers Predicted XI (4-3-3):
Wigan Predicted XI (4-2-3-1) Jones (GK), Darikwa, Wootton, Tilt, Robinson, Aasgard, Ojo, Solomon-Otabor, Keane, Massey; Lang.
Harley: The Gas 3-0 Wigan
Mets: The Gas 2-0 Wigan
Max and Simon: The Gas 2-1 Wigan