Bristol Rovers boss Mark McGhee backs his squad to start moving up the table
BRISTOL Rovers boss Mark McGhee believes a play-off charge over the second part of the season is not beyond the realms of possibility once his squad is reinforced by the return of a number of key players.
Rovers have been hampered by injuries and suspension to a key players during a difficult campaign, but are slowly starting to welcome a number of them back in to first-team contention.
Last season's player-of-the-year Danny Woodards made his first start of the campaign at Rochdale on Saturday, having recovered from a broken leg suffered on the final day of last season, and is expected to soon be joined by fellow long-term absentees Matt Gill and Cian Bolger.
Rovers remain four points off the bottom of League Two following a 2-1 defeat at Rochdale on Saturday, but the manager said: "I'm still convinced we have a group of players here that will improve and get better results.
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"We have a squad here we can be satisfied with. It is one that compares with most in this league, so we shouldn't be thinking about anything else other than looking up and making progress up the league table.
"Injuries and suspensions have taken a toll on the squad, so people have to be fair and make a judgement when we have everybody back and available.
"We still have ambitions to get higher up the table and I believe we have players capable of achieving that before it gets too late."
When asked what he meant by the term "too late", McGhee replied: "It becomes too late when it is unrealistic to make the play-offs.
"There are loads of games left and we do have a good squad. I'd expect that when we get all our best players back, we have got enough to put together a winning run.
"We need to do that before we are too many points behind to make an impact on it (the play-offs). We have to hope that by Christmas, we will have all of the players back out there and that we will have half the games left for us to go on some sort of run."
When asked to discuss his players' recent run of results, McGhee said: "I had no issue with any of the players in terms of attitude and spirit on Saturday and I don't think there are any issues with the players' belief. The game was there to be won for us in the first-half and the only thing we were disappointed about was that we conceded goals from situations the players had been made aware off."
Rovers continue their bid to move away from the wrong end of the table when they go to high-flying Port Vale tonight (7.45pm).
"We're not going to do anything other than embrace the challenge," said McGhee. "Port Vale are at home and will look at our recent results and see it as an opportunity to get three more points.
"We also have people missing so that will also be of some encouragement to them. I'd expect them to try to put on a very aggressive performance where they will try to get at us, so we'll have to be prepared for an early onslaught."
Rovers will be without Garry Kenneth, Eliot Richards and Oliver Norburn due to suspensions.
Matt Lund returns from a ban, but Tom Eaves, Joe Anyinsah and David Clarkson did not train yesterday and will all have their fitness assessed this morning.