Barton’s words to winger, Nicholson’s mission, Jones on point – Bristol Rovers moments missed
Bristol Rovers’ stubborn resilience to earn a draw with top-flight Mansfield Town seemed a positive outcome in isolation, but when taking into deeper components there was a lingering tinge of disappointment over their goalless stalemate at the Mem .
A point against the Stags, who are unbeaten in their last 11 games – including nine wins – would have been considered a positive if the Gaz hadn’t seen their own six-game unbeaten streak go away last Tuesday after a 2-0 loss. -1 against Oldham Athletic, threatened with relegation.
Another element that would have gone unnoticed by simply checking the score at full time was the controversial 63rd-minute penalty incident that potentially put Rovers ahead.
Aaron Collins followed up with a long ball forward near the right touchline, he then burst into the penalty area avoiding Oliver Hawkins’ stray leg, but was then seemingly knocked down by John-Joe O’ Toole inside the penalty area, however, referee John Busby booked Collins for a simulation, which left the forward in utter disbelief.
It was the defining moment in a game heavily impacted by windy weather conditions which saw each team dominate a half with the conditions supporting them behind them. However, neither could take advantage of the quite literal “wind in their sails” and each had to settle for one point.
Here are some moments you may have missed…
Jones very well in the first team
Joey Barton has spoken candidly about Ryan Jones’ positive progress this season ahead of the clash with Mansfield Town following the teenager’s involvement with several first-team squads and despite not being named in the 18 on Saturday, he was still visibly present.
Jones worked closely with Kevin Bond during the warm-up as the squad members were put through their paces on the near touchline, eventually Jones joined the substitutes to make up the numbers, alongside Bond, in the passing Rovers exercise still driving before kick-off.
Despite not making his league debut for Rovers, Jones was on the scoresheet in the 5-3 Papa John Trophy loss to Exeter City. Nick Anderton and Zain Westbrooke also found the back of the net, but it was Jones’ goal that caught the most attention.
The 19-year-old showed his positive and direct run, avoiding three Exeter players before finishing clinically just inside the penalty area.
The attacking talent in Rovers’ ranks has made it difficult for him to secure a meaningful first-team opportunity, but Barton is firmly aware of the positive progress he is making, suggesting that while he might need a loan soon, with the right development, he could become a first-team player.
Nicholson’s back and forth with Barton
As the majority of Gasheads know, Barton deploys a very hands-on management style on game days and he has been heavily involved with Sam Nicholson on the weekends.
The Gas were blocked for much of the first half, which meant that Harry Anderson and Nicholson had to do their fair share of follow-up, but there was a moment when Nicholson was caught watching the ball and Barton certainly didn’t hold back.
The Rovers boss berated Nicholson for allowing O’Toole to make a forward run beyond the halfway line without being followed, thankfully his blushes were avoided when Mansfield’s attack failed. However, that was not the end of their story.
Minutes later, Nicholson launched a tackle on Elliot Hewitt just ahead of the dugouts with the ball ricocheting directly into Barton’s face, an ironic result after the manager made his feelings known to Nicholson following the previous incident .
Barton’s message to supporters
Rovers had their best spell of the game early in the second half and their front foot play was certainly recognized by those in the stands and the man on the touchline.
A positive flurry from Nicholson ended with a 20-yard shot passing just wide of the target and while the noise from the stands was at first moans after a good chance was missed, the sounds quickly changed.
After the effort, there were soft cheers of encouragement, but that wasn’t enough for Barton who waved both hands to the crowd to increase the noise in the Mem.
While Rovers have been unable to enjoy the support of just over 7,000 Gasheads, Barton knows how important they will be in the final nine home games of the season to help the team rack up points, starting with the visit of Sutton United. Tuesday.
Nicholson’s mission in the second half
Nicholson, similarly to Harry Anderson and Elliot Anderson, struggled to get plenty of attacking opportunities as Mansfield edged out a scrappy opening 45. However, in the second half, combined with a change of position, its impact increased to the displeasure of one Mansfield player in particular. .
Lucas Akins, best known for playing as a winger, was placed at left-back for the Stags and while he endured a quiet opening 45 he was terrorized by Nicholson after the interval.
Each time Nicholson received the ball on the half-turn, he unhesitatingly galloped straight at Akins, beating him in one-on-one duels three times, but with minimal end product.
If anyone from Rovers’ perspective was going to deliver a moment of magic, it seemed to be Nicholson, and noticing this, Mansfield switched to a back five which pushed Akins to right back.
However, the 32-year-old was given no respite as Nicholson followed him across the pitch in a bid to recreate earlier moments of positivity.
The change in formation, however, altered the balance of the game and allowed Mansfield to regain their footing in the game and eventually leave North Bristol with a point.
Bond and Bishop reunite
When you’ve spent as much time in football as Kevin Bond, it’s inevitable that he’ll see a few familiar faces almost every weekend in his current role as Rovers first-team coach and Saturday wasn’t different.
As Bond walked across the field before the second half, he took a moment to give a warm greeting to Stags goalkeeper Nathan Bishop.
Before being picked up by Manchester United, Bishop played 31 games for Southend United from 2017 to 2020 and was at the club when Bond was manager for the first half of the 2019/20 season where the club were relegated from League One.
Southend are now in the National League led by former Rovers manager Kevin Maher, who guided the Seasiders to 12th in the table after no defeats in their last ten.
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