John Ward adds three new signings to his Bristol Rovers squad
BRISTOL Rovers manager John Ward started his survival recruitment drive by adding three new faces to his squad yesterday.
Ward first confirmed that month-long loan deals for Colchester United midfielder John-Joe O'Toole and QPR striker Tom Hitchcock had been agreed before adding experienced goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall, pictured, to his ranks after securing an arrangement to borrow him from Millwall. Ward is now facing a race against time to ratify the three signings with the Football League, so they can all be considered for selection for today's clash against Plymouth Argyle at the Memorial Stadium (1pm).
Mildenhall's arrival temporarily solves a problem area for Ward, who is without senior stopper Scott Bevan and loses Sam Walker, who returns to Chelsea after today's game at the end of his six-month loan deal.
Mildenhall, 33, has made more than 300 league appearances since he started his career at Swindon over 15 years ago. He has also played for Notts County, Oldham Athletic, Grimsby Town, Yeovil Town and Southend United.
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O'Toole, 24, a former Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, has made more than 100 league appearances since he made his Watford debut in 2007 – but has been hampered by injury over the last couple of seasons and has arrived to get games under his belt in a bid to force himself back into contention at Colchetser.
Hitchcock, 20, has yet to feature for QPR, but played eight games for Plymouth in a loan spell at the start of last season and has been scoring freely in the Under-21 Development League.
Ward said: "I'm pleased to have been able to get these three players in in on short-term loan deals.
"We are delighted to have a goalkeeper with Steve's experience on board. His arrival is not, in any way, a reflection on Sam Walker, who did very well for me at Aldershot on Boxing Day.
"However, given our league position, I felt we needed some experience. I know Steve and I am grateful to his manager at Millwall, Kenny Jackett, for allowing him to join us.
On O'Toole, Ward added: "John-Joe is a really strong midfield player with good experience.
"He's played to a good level in the Championship for Watford and will give you 35 or 40 games consistently every season.
"He's been injured recently, but has got himself back in and around the group at Colchester and wants to get his career going again.
"He'll get an opportunity to do that over the next few weeks here and I'm pleased to be able to add a very strong front-running midfielder player to our group.
On Hitchcock, Ward said: "Tom has scored plenty of goals for Queens Park Rangers at Under-21 level, which is no mean feat. That is a good level of football, but it is not quite the same as a game against Plymouth Argyle in front of a few thousand people.
"It is a big test for him, but he is a hard-working player, who certainly has a goal or two in him."
The pitch at the Memorial Stadium was deemed playable yesterday afternoon and no pitch inspection was planned, despite another day of heavy rain in Bristol on Monday.
Ward said: "The amount of rain we have had is something that is out of my control and, for me, all I can focus on is preparing the players and we will be ready if the game goes ahead.
"It is a big one for us and one we certainly need to try and win. There is a bit of pressure on us because we only have 34 hours of football over 16 weeks left to save ourselves.
"It really is all hands to the pump now and we have to be prepared to give it everything we have got between now and the end of the season."
Defender Danny Woodards has returned to training after illness, but David Clarkson (ankle), Jim Paterson (hamstring) and Garry Kenneth (suspension) all miss out.