It may be very early on in the season but two sides desperate to get their first points on the board go head to head this week as Bristol Rovers host Oldham Athletic.
23rd place Rovers have suffered two late defeats from two, a 94th minute penalty defeat to Mansfield followed by 88th and 96th minute goals at home to Stevenage last time out means that Joey Barton is seeking to end a record of 8 home defeats in a row.
One notable absentee from the loss to Stevenage was creative midfielder Zain Westbrooke, the former Coventry man featured in the first game of the season and the cup exit to Cheltenham but manager Joey Barton has now confirmed that he is free to find a new club.
“Zain‘s somebody who I think needs a fresh challenge and a fresh start,” Barton told BristolLive.
“He’s obviously picked up a little bit of a niggle from the game and we can’t ask him to go out and play when he might be surplus to requirements.”
When asked whether his last game was against Cheltenham in the cup, Barton added:
“I don’t know, never say never in our game. Who knows in football, it’s taught me over the years that things can happen,”
“I think he’s had a lot of opportunities Zain, he’s a great kid but I don’t think it worked for him before I got here and I just think he’s chased his tail a little bit and sometimes you need a fresh start and Zain’s paid a good salary for where we’re at this moment in time.”
Barton will be without captain Paul Coutts for the game as the midfielder serves the final game of his three-game ban. Alex Rodman, Aaron Collins and Sam Nicholson are all in contention to start the game after making substitute appearances in the loss to Stevenage but Luke Thomas is a doubt.
Oldham go into the game having also tasted two late defeats to start the League Two season.
The Latics were beaten 1-0 by Newport where Kevin Ellison scored two minutes from time and this was followed up by a 98th minute loss at Bradford last time out.
After the game, assistant head coach Colin West, deputising for manager Keith Curle who is isolating after testing positive for Coronavirus, spoke of how the late goals affected the team last season before he arrived and how it cannot continue this year.
“I’m getting told that this was happening last year and in previous years, but these lads have got to learn and learn quick,” West told the Oldham Times.
“They’ve played some great football, but we’ve had so many opportunities to try to put that ball in the back of the net and we’ve let them off the hook.
“We’ve conceded a goal, got back into the game and played some really good football and getting into good areas; get the goal back and then we just go to sleep. It’s ridiculous.
“I feel sorry for the supporters, they were absolutely unbelievable. It’s just heartbreaking. They’ve paid good money to come and watch a good performance, but we then don’t finish it off. We don’t see the game out.
Oldham will be without manager Keith Curle in the dugout once again as he continues to isolate, meaning that West and Alan Sheehan will once again occupy the touchline.
The makeshift management team have to consider whether goalkeeper Danny Rogers is fit enough to play. The summer signing played the full 90 on Saturday with an injured shoulder and could miss the trip to them because of it. Fellow summer sigining Jamie Hopcutt is also doubtful for the trip to Bristol with a knee injury.
Bristol Rovers Predicted XI (4-2-3-1):
Oldham Athletic Predicted XI (3-4-3): Rogers (GK), Clarke, Hart, Cisse, Piergianni, Adams, Whelan, Keillor-Dunn, Stobbs, Bahamboula, Hope.
Jack and Mets: The Gas 1-0 Oldham Athletic
Simon: The Gas 1-1 Oldham Athletic
Sam: The Gas 2-0 Oldham Athletic