Joey Barton believes he has the competition for the goalkeeper job he wanted as James Belshaw returns to Bristol Rovers’ starting eleven for Saturday’s clash with Oxford United at Kassam Stadium.

January signing Ellery Balcombe, on loan from Brentford, has started the last five games, but fans’ favorite and reigning player of the year Belshaw gets his gloves on this afternoon.

“I think Ellery has done well there,” Barton told BBC Radio Bristol. It has been very hard for him in terms of Belly’s favoritism in the fans and we have achieved what we wanted, which is two good goalkeepers competing for a shirt.

“We gave Ellery five games and failed to find a win in that, although he did keep a very good clean sheet against Ipswich.

“The competition for places is intensifying. There are a number of changes today. Calum Macdonald, who started last time, and Luke McCormick are not on the bench, so we have a healthy team with some suspensions and injuries behind and hopefully we can get a positive performance and result and start looking back at the table.

“We wanted competition. Last season, Anssi (Jaakkola) was still giving James competition there and this season, Anssi has turned to the coach’s side.

“So the next goalkeeper is young Jed Ward, who went on loan and did excellently, but he’s probably 12-18 months away from challenging Belly for the jersey. Jed might have something to say about that in pre-season, but that’s how we see it and we felt that we needed to create that competition in the whole team.

“The goalkeeping department was an area of ​​focus. Ellery came on and made a mistake in his first save against Morecambe and some people want Belly back in goal since then and it’s been really difficult for him.”

“I think he’s shown enormous character to show his qualities and he’s made some key saves and contributions in the four games after Morecambe, but James got player of the year last year and had a good season for us last year. “. very consistent

“We have the competition that we were looking for. James now knows that there is competition for his shirt and today he is on the bench and I hope that is the case until the end of the season because that will mean that they have been successful and have had positive results and performances.”

Live coverage of today’s game is here…

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