Bristol Rovers hit by David Clarkson injury blow
BRISTOL Rovers boss John Ward yesterday completed a deal to sign free agent Oumare Tounkara after finding out that David Clarkson is to miss the remainder of the season due to a persistent ankle injury.
Tounkara, 22, has agreed a short-term deal until the end of the season and goes straight into the squad for the game against Burton Albion at the Memorial Stadium tomorrow.
Ward is also hoping to welcome striker Ryan Brunt, who has missed the last two games, back into the squad, but has suffered another injury blow when it was confirmed Clarkson may need an operation to repair an ankle problem that has dogged him for most of the season.
Ward said: "David needs an operation and won't play again this season. His ankle is not right, so we really have to look at that.
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"It is a shame because David is a senior member of the squad and an important player for us, but he just can't get that ankle right.
"On a more positive note, however, we are hoping to have Ryan Brunt back and available and we've also signed Oumare on a short-term deal.
"We've done our background on Oumare and he has also been very impressive in training with us. Getting him to join us on a short-term deal is another good addition to the group and gives me further options ahead of the last 12 games.
"We have a group of four very good strikers that are all of a different type and that will offer us added strength not only in the starting line-up, but also from the bench."
Wideman Fabian Broghammer is also "doubtful" due to a hamstring problem, but defender Clayton McDonald returns after missing Tuesday night's defeat at Northampton to be at the birth of his new-born son.
Rovers will be attempting to bounce back after suffering a 1-0 defeat at Northampton Town on Tuesday night, which shortened the gap between themselves and the League Two relegation zone to three points.
"It goes without saying that it is nicer when you are six points off the bottom two than when you are three points clear of it," said Ward.
"It depends on how you look at it, though. If you looked at the table early in January we were in an even worse plight. We've had seven games in February and we've lost two of them, but we are in a good position.
"We are also actually only two or three points off the teams above us, so we're still looking at it like that to see if we can catch them."
Northampton midfielder Ben Harding's 88th-minute strike at Sixfields on Tuesday night consigned Rovers to their second defeat in third games, but Ward said: "Results are paramount, but performances, for me, come first.
"The defeat at Northampton was the third since we all came together as a group in the last 12 games. If you look at the block as a whole we have had nine positive results and 12 very good performances.
"The lads put everything into trying to get a positive result on Tuesday, which made losing the game late on so difficult to take.
"The most important thing for me is how you deal with a setback. "What we have to concentrate on is maintaining our current level of performance.
"I think we have played well, even in the games we have lost, and I am happy with how the boys are going about their business."
Third-placed Burton will arrive at the Memorial Stadium harbouring genuine hopes of promotion after a fine run of form that has seen them win their last four games.
"The management team have done a fantastic job there," said Ward. "They are working on a budget that reflects crowds of less than 3,000, so their recruitment policy has been really good.
"They are a confident side at the moment and when you feel like that you think anything is possible. They will now believing that they can get in the top three with 12 games left, but that puts a different sort of pressure on them.
"Many people may not have expected them to be in the running to be in the top three at the end of the season, but they will be now.
"It is up to them how they deal with it, but it will be our job to try and put a dent in it for them on Saturday."