Joey Barton insists Bristol Rovers are “moving in the right direction” after ending an eight-match losing streak with a 1-0 win over Oldham.
A 35th-minute header from Harvey Saunders, his first goal for the club, proved enough for a deserved three points.
It was Rovers’ first home goal in well over eight hours of football at the Memorial Stadium and the first-half display, in particular, gave Barton good reason for satisfaction.
He said: “We still have some very good players not available and were again asking lads to play out of position.
“But we did have the right personnel to play wing-backs, which is how we want to operate, and got in a lot of crosses from dangerous positions.
“Brett Pitman, on the bench next to me, commented on how many chances we created and how he would love to have been on the end of some of them.
“A victory gives us a chance to take a breath. After losing your opening games, there is a natural impatience to make changes.
“We are still looking to do business in the transfer window, but the nature of it means any ins or outs are likely to be late in the month.
“The important thing is that we are moving in the right direction. As more players return to fitness, I would expect the progress to continue.”
Barton praised the performance of goalkeeper James Belshaw, making his league debut for Rovers in place of the injured Anssi Jaakkola.
“James didn’t have a lot to do, but was rock steady,” said Barton. “He now has the shirt and I believe if we are to create competition for places those in possession have to do something to lose them.”
Oldham assistant head coach Colin West, continuing in charge while Keith Curle isolates after testing positive for Covid-19, was scathing about his team’s first-half display.
“We didn’t turn up,” he said. “Our travelling fans have paid to come down here and didn’t get their money’s worth.
“It was men against boys. At half-time I told the players they should be pinning each other against the walls over how we played.
“There are six or seven of them I would want to go to war with and that isn’t nearly enough.
“They need to grow up quickly. We are bottom of the table and have to fight as hard as we possibly can to change that.
“The second half was better, but the game had been lost by then. I am very disappointed overall with what I saw.”