Joey Barton says he has seen enough to be convinced Bristol Rovers will stay up

Joey Barton, left, lost his first game as Bristol Rovers boss
Joey Barton, left, lost his first game as Bristol Rovers boss (PA Wire)
22:51pm, Tue 23 Feb 2021
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New boss Joey Barton insists he has seen enough to be convinced Bristol Rovers will stay up despite losing his first game in charge 2-1 against Wigan.

Callum Lang headed Wigan into a 52nd-minute lead with his fourth goal in five games, but Luke McCormick levelled in the 69th minute with a low right-footed drive.

It looked as though both sides would have to settle for a point in their survival battle, but deep into stoppage time Scott Wootton met a free-kick from the left with an unstoppable volley.

The goal sparked joyous celebrations on the Wigan bench, while Barton admitted it was a sickening way to end the game.

But the new Rovers boss said: “I have seen more than enough from my first training session and the effort of the players tonight to be convinced we will stay up.

“Set-pieces have been the team’s Achilles’ heel this season and we conceded from two more, so there is clearly work to be done.

“But I lost my first game in charge at Fleetwood and look what happened after that. I won’t sleep well tonight, but I will bounce back and so will the players.

“We didn’t deserve to lose. I made a triple substitution near the end in a bid to win the game, so maybe I am to blame that we were not sufficiently organised to defend that last free-kick.

“I have broad shoulders if people think that way. But we didn’t deserve to lose and I am clear in my mind about what needs to be addressed.

“There is no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We need to aim for 52 points, which means 25 from 17 matches, a target I see as very achievable.”

Wigan caretaker-boss Leam Richardson saw the result as a massive boost to his own club’s chances of staying in League One after they moved level with their hosts on 27 points to sit one point behind AFC Wimbledon in 20th.

“The players have been putting in so much hard work and they deserved that late goal,” he said.

“We expect our centre-halves and strikers to get across defenders when we win free-kicks and thankfully Scott has done just that for the winning goal.

“Callum Lang has been excellent for us, not just with his goals in recent matches, but with his application and work-rate.

“He epitomises the effort levels we need if we are going to stay up. It’s infectious and spreads through the team.

“Wins like this one will bring everyone together. Any goal is welcome, but ones that come in the 95th minute are extra special.

“It’s something for us to build on and it is important we do that now. We have small numbers with the situation surrounding our club, but that is made up for by the honesty among this group of players.”

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