Bristol Rovers boss John Ward delighted as John-Joe O'Toole extends his stay by two months
JOHN Ward is confident the additions he's made to his squad during the January transfer window have given Bristol Rovers the best possible chance of winning their battle to remain in the Football League.
The Rovers boss anticipates little, if any, further activity between now and Thursday night's deadline after yesterday persuading on-loan Colchester United midfielder John-Joe O'Toole, pictured, to extend his stay at the club for a further two months.
O'Toole is one of six new arrivals to elicit an improvement in form, as Ward made good on his promise to launching a recruitment drive over a four-week period that he had labelled "pivotal" to Rovers' hopes of avoiding relegation.
"I said when I came here that what happened during January would have a pivotal effect on our chances of getting out of the situation we were in," said Ward.
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"The strength and depth of the squad available to us is probably the most significant factor that will play a part in giving us the best chance this season, and I am really pleased with the additions that have been made.
"We have had to do a few things with the short-term in mind," said Ward. "Some of the lads we have brought in are having to put their personal situations to one side for the moment in an attempt to keep this club in the Football League. I'm just delighted I have found the sorts of characters prepared to do that."
He added: "We certainly have some competition for places now and that is something I didn't have the luxury of when I first arrived.
"We didn't even have enough players to fill the bench at Fleetwood a few weeks ago, so it is nice to finally have the numbers available to present me with selection problems."
O'Toole, who has become an instant fans' favourite since he joined on loan from Colchester at the turn of the year, will remain at the Memorial Stadium until April 2 and will be available for 15 of Rovers' remaining 19 league games.
Ward said: "It is great news John-Joe is here to stay, it is what everyone at the club wanted and the other players are all very happy.
"There is a 24-hour recall clause, but that was something Colchester wanted, and I fully understand that.
"But if everything goes well, we have him for the next 15 games and he will only miss the last four. He brings a strength and a character to the club and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He is a ball-winner and always gives everything. He is what we need at this club, he cares about the team and that is why he has endeared himself to the fans."
Ward, meanwhile, has warned new-boy Clayton McDonald that the improved form of his back four in recent weeks may mean the on-loan Port Vale defender will have to wait a little longer for his debut.
McDonald penned a three-month loan deal last week, but made it only as far as the substitutes bench for the impressive 3-1 win at Rotherham.
Ward said: "The back four has been a relatively stable situation since I have been here and that has something that has been really pleasing for me.
"Clayton wants to play, of course, but I think he has said publicly that he understood that the prospect of him going straight into the team was not guaranteed.
"He's a fair man and a good man and when we need him I'm sure he will be more than ready. There is a very competitive nature about the squad, but there is also a very good collective spirit.
"As long as that remains the case, we will give ourselves the best chance."