Bristol Rovers boss John Ward delighted with transfer window arrivals
John Ward is confident that 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 – although Ward remains hopeful that on-loan Colchester United midfielder John-Joe O'Toole will decide to extend his stay at the club when his initial one-month loan deal expires tomorrow.
O'Toole, however, is just one of six new arrivals to elicit an improvement in form over the last few weeks as Ward made good on his promised of launching a recruitment drive during 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. "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.
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"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 bench at Fleetwood a few weeks ago so it is nice to finally have the numbers available to present me with selection problems.
"Bringing somebody here with the experience of Steve Mildenhall for example is the sort of signings that were very important for us to make. Steve is a very good goalkeeper, but it is also about what he gives us around the group and about the training ground in general.
"He has a strong leadership quality and is fully committed to the cause we are all working hard towards here."
On-loan Millwall man Mildenhall will remain at the Memorial Stadium until the end of the season – as will defender Mark McChrystal, who agreed a short-term six-month contract at the start of January.
"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 buy in to what we are trying to do."
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 Saturday's impressive 3-1 win at Rotherham United.
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."