Bristol Rovers host Stevenage this weekend as fans step foot into the Memorial Stadium for the first league match since March 2020.
Rovers’ last league home fixture in front of fans came in a 2-0 win over Sunderland pre-pandemic and a lot has changed since that win.
Relegation to League Two followed last season where no supporters were allowed into grounds and after two defeats from two to start the season, the early optimism from Gasheads seems to be fading.
A 2-1 loss in the opening league game at Mansfield was followed up by a Carabao Cup loss to League one Cheltenham and now Joey Barton has the task of picking his new crop of players up in search for that first positive result of the season.
With a number of players still out through injury and suspension, Barton may need to dive back into the transfer market before the end of the window, but the former Fleetwood manager has admitted that some players will have to leave in order to bring players in.
“It’s just a strange one at the minute,” Barton told BristolLive.
“We need to bring players in for certain positions and we’re fully aware of that but to do that you need those players to be available and at this moment in time it’s quite a cagey marketplace.
“But I’m absolutely sure by the time the deadline rolls around there’s going to be players who leave, good lads but we just need to free up spaces in the squad to get people who can come in and bring in a level of quality that unfortunately some of the boys haven’t shown in my time here.
“That’s football, for us to progress as a team we need to make some tough decisions. I think there’s enough water gone now where I think I can make those calls. I’ve given people a lot of opportunities and unfortunately they haven’t managed to take them.”
Barton will be without captain Paul Coutts for the game as the midfielder serves the second of his three-game ban. Trevor Clarke is also out after limping off in the defeat to Mansfield. Alex Rodman, Sam Finley and Sam Nicholson are all in contention though after playing 70 minutes in a development squad game in midweek.
Stevenage go into the game in good form, having won two from two so far this season.
The Boro beat Barrow in their opening league game before shocking Championship side Luton Town on penalties in midweek in a shootout that saw Rovers legend Chris Lines score from the spot.
Lines is not the only former Rovers player in the Stevenage ranks, striker James Daly, one of the forwards in the relegation season last year is now at the Lamex Stadium.
Daly is yet to make an appearance for Stevenage but was on the bench in midweek meaning he could make his debut against his former club.
Further team news for Alex Revell’s side is that he will be without both Arthur Read and Brad Barry as the pair continue to regain match fitness.
Bristol Rovers Predicted XI (4-3-3):
Stevenage Predicted XI (4-4-2): Anang (GK); Wildin, Cuthbert, Vancooten, Coker; Osborne, Taylor, Lines, Reeves; List, Norris.
Max: The Gas 0-1 Stevenage
Mets: The Gas 1-2 Stevenage
Sam: The Gas 1-1 Stevenage
Simon and Jack: The Gas 1-0 Stevenage