Bristol Rovers’ away form is proving to be their Achilles heel after a poor start to the season, but their home form is markedly better after three successive wins – and clean sheets – in all competitions.
But Kenny Jackett’s Leyton Orient will rock up at the Mem on Saturday full of confidence after starting their campaign on the front foot, and the Os are sure to ask plenty of questions of Joey Barton’s side.
The Gas boss’ selection options have been hit by injury once again, with Sam Nicholson and Leon Clarke the most significant absentees, and Barton will have to find solutions in their stead if Rovers are to keep their home winning streak alive.
Here is the side Bristol Live expects Barton to select to play the Os on Saturday…
What XI would you select for tomorrow’s game? Let us know in the comments section below…
Goalkeeper and defence
Anssi Jaakkola is edging closer to a return to availability after receiving an injection for his Achilles, but James Belshaw remains in possession of the gloves for now.
The 30-year-old impressed again at Hartlepool and will hope to keep a third successive home clean sheet in the league, with Jed Ward likely to be providing cover from the bench.
In defence, changes are likely with the formula not quite right at Hartlepool. Rovers’ best performances this season have come in a back three this season and Barton could revert to a 3-4-2-1 shape for the visit of The Os.
Connor Taylor’s place in the team is assured thanks to a fine run of form, and his height will be vital for dealing with the aerial threat of Harry Smith.
Mark Hughes could keep his spot, too, but Barton may make a change of the left of the back three with Cian Harries regaining his place from Nick Anderton after a minor illness saw him miss the trip to the North East.
Harry Anderson will start, likely at right wing-back presuming Barton plumps for a back three, with Junior Brown in line for a full debut on the left side.
Trevor Clarke and Alex Rodman remain sidelined with an injury, but Alfie Kilgour, Luca Hoole and Pablo Martinez are candidates for the bench.
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Barton has significant competition for places in central midfield, with most having a decent claim for a starting spot.
Sam Finley’s spot in the XI is certain and, provided club captain Paul Coutts starts from the bench again, the all-action midfielder should wear the captain’s armband.
Coutts, Josh Grant, Glenn Whelan Zain Westbrooke and Cam Hargreaves are options to play alongside Finley, with Grant perhaps just pipping Whelan to a starting berth thanks to his versatility, which would allow Rovers to pivot to a back four without making major changes in personnel mid-game.
Sion Spence and Ryan Jones are candidates for the bench.
With Leon Clarke and Sam Nicholson set to miss months and weeks respectively with injury, Barton will have to find solutions up front, and Brett Pitman is certain to be at the heart of them.
The veteran striker will lead the line, likely supported by a pair of attacking midfielders.
With the manager saying at his pre-match press conference Luke Thomas is not quite ready to start, Antony Evans, Aaron Collins and Harvey Saunders are the men competing for two places in the XI.
Evans and Collins could get the nod, with Saunders perhaps needing a brief break from starting duty having played in a variety of positions of late. He, despite last week’s costly mistake at Hartlepool, has started well for Rovers and could be a valuable impact sub on Saturday.
Rovers (3-4-2-1): Belshaw; Taylor, Hughes, Harries; Anderson, Grant, Finley, Brown; Collins, Evans; Pitman.