Joey Barton praises Leon Clarke’s desire after impressive Bristol Rovers debut
Joey Barton praised the attitude of veteran Leon Clarke after the striker marked his Bristol Rovers debut with the only goal against Crawley in League Two.
The 36-year-old had been on the field for only around 90 seconds at the start of the second half when he headed home a cross from fellow debutant Antony Evans.
Rovers had to defend for their lives during seven minutes of stoppage time, but manager Barton was delighted with a hard-earned 1-0 win.
He said: “Leon has been with us for around 10 days and has proved he still has a big appetite for the game.
“Like Brett Pitman, who I signed earlier, he still has a fierce desire to score goals and I’m delighted he has got off to such a good start.”
On his side’s display, Barton added: “In the first half we didn’t give ourselves a platform to win the game.
“We had to defend our goal at the end and were bit nervy, but the lads saw the job through.
“We have to work hard to earn the right to win games. League Two is more physical than League One and we had to dig in today.
“There is still lots of work in front of us to turn things around, but there have been positive signs in the last few games.
“There is a nervousness in the stadium and I understand that. I have more grey hairs than when I came here, but I can see the team growing by the game.”
Rovers had goalkeeper James Belshaw to thank for some important saves and Crawley were entitled to feel hard done by.
Visiting boss John Yems was frustrated by his team’s inability to turn chances into goals.
“I thought we were excellent, but pick the paper up tomorrow and we lost,” he said. “It was a good game, end-to-end, and they have come out on top.
“No matter how many chances you create, if you don’t take them you are likely to go home with nothing and that has happened to us today.
“We have had a lot of injuries and two players we named in the squad today had to miss the game because we were told they were not registered in time.
“I’m not sure what happened, but that is frustrating. At the moment, I would take a scrappy win, but we brush ourselves down and move on.
“It was good to have Tom Nichols back. He has shown himself a top professional in his recovery from injury and was naturally a bit rusty.
“As other players return, we will improve. But that is no consolation at the moment.”