Liverpool defender Jarell Quansah made his return from a three-match ban on Tuesday night, with Joey Barton ruing his “mistake” in a 2-1 defeat.
Quansah missed three games for Bristol Rovers – victories over Charlton and Fleetwood and a draw with Derby – after a red card in a fiery defeat to Portsmouth last month.
The timing of his dismissal saw him sit out of a month of fixtures, but the 20-year-old made an immediate return to the starting lineup as Barton’s side hosted Sheffield Wednesday.
It also led to a return to a three-man defence which, as the manager admitted to the Bristol Post after the 2-1 loss, was tactical “overthought.”
Sheffield Wednesday’s opener came after a sloppy square pass from Quansah, which saw the ball break for Barry Bannan to fire home, and Barton argued that this came due to rustiness.
“We had lots of control for the first 30 minutes and Jarell makes a mistake, probably because he’s not knocked in,” he said.
“I have to accept that maybe I’ve overthought that a bit tactically.”
Barton made three changes at half-time, reverting to a back four, but by that time Rovers were 2-0 down, and they were unable to add to their goal early in the second half.
Quansah played the full 90 minutes and is expected to keep his place in the coming games, with five left in League One.
Rovers’ final game of the season is at home to Bolton, who suffered a setback in their playoff push on Tuesday night as they drew 1-1 at Burton Albion.
Conor Bradley played 90 minutes for the 36th time in his loan spell, and it was his surge up the right and backheel that led to Bolton’s opener, with Aaron Morley’s shot deflecting in off Victor Adeboyejo.
A goal from Josh Walker saw Burton level on the hour, though, with two more points dropped allowing Derby to draw level with Bolton as they vie, along with Peterborough, for the final two playoff spots.
Elsewhere, Vitezslav Jaros went unused for the 22nd consecutive game as Stockport drew 2-2 with Carlisle, having long lost the No. 1 spot to Ben Hinchliffe.
Fidel O’Rourke was not part of the Halifax Town squad for their 1-1 draw with Bromley, while Paul Glatzel missed Tranmere’s 2-2 draw with Rochdale.