Striker Brunt is expected to join Rovers
Bristol Rovers boss John Ward is set to complete the signing of Stoke City striker Ryan Brunt today.
Ward made his fifth signing of the transfer window by securing the signature of central defender Clayton McDonald from Port Vale on Monday and is now hoping to bolster his attacking options by securing a deal to bring 19-year-old Brunt to Bristol.
Brunt, who began his fledgling career in Bristol City's academy, joined Stoke in 2010 and has since scored four goals in 38 appearances during short loan spells at Luton, Tranmere and Leyton Orient.
As a 6ft 1ins striker, Ward is hopeful Brunt will add the sort of physical and aerial threat that has been missing since Tom Eaves returned to Bolton at the turn of the year.
The manager yesterday reiterated his desire to remain in the market for an experienced striker – even though David Clarkson is set to make a return to action against Rotherham at the New York Stadium on Saturday following a month-long injury absence – to "support" youngsters Eliot Richards and Tom Hitchcock.
Ward approached Swindon to assess the possibility of taking striker Paul Benson on loan last week, but has still yet to hear back from a player he tried to sign from Charlton while manager at Colchester during the last January transfer window.
That chase is hindered by the fact that Benson, 33, is in no rush to make an immediate decision on his future, with 18 months left on his current Swindon deal.
He turned down a loan move to Cheltenham last week after being told by Swindon boss Paulo Di Canio that he would not be allowed to extend his month-long stay at Portsmouth, and is now considering his next move.
Swindon are still keen to offload the marksman, but a host of clubs, including Bradford, Colchester, Gillingham, Southend and Dagenham & Redbridge are also reportedly interested in acquiring his services and Benson is only one of a number of targets Ward is keeping tabs on.
The manager's chances of keeping on-loan midfielder John-Joe O'Toole for an extended spell also appear to have increased.
The midfielder confirmed on Monday that he was keeping an open mind over his immediate future – with a return to Colchester an option if he can force himself into manager Joe Dunne's plans.
Dunne, however, told local reporters yesterday: "John-Joe is not going to get that regular football with me at the moment.
"We try to play a certain way and John-Joe has been working hard to play in that style of play when we train.
"He's got another year with us, he's doing fine, and he's fine where he is (at Bristol Rovers)."
McDonald, meanwhile, has been told he is not guaranteed an opportunity to go straight into the side for Saturday's game at Rotherham, but Ward said: "Clayton comes into my thinking, of course. I've told him he may have to start on the bench because of how well the other guys did at Fleetwood, but we'll see.
"I only had Tom Parkes and Mark McChrystal to fill the centre of my defence, so it was important we brought in another after losing Garry (Kenneth) for the rest of the season.
"People always say you shouldn't change a winning team, but two weeks have passed since we won at Fleetwood, so I'll do what I think is right.
"Rotherham is a different game. They are pushing to get themselves in to those promotion places, so I'll need to have a good look at everything before I make a final decision on my starting line-up."
Rovers, meanwhile, have been training on the 3G pitch at their Cribbs Causeway headquarters this week and Ward remains hopeful Saturday's game in Rotherham will not fall foul of the adverse weather conditions.
Ward said: "We've been working on the 3G pitch, but the snow keeps falling, so it has been a bit difficult this week.
"I've spoken to a couple of my counterparts north of Birmingham and they are really struggling to find places to train, so we are quite lucky to have the artificial pitch available to us up here.
"We have no other thoughts in our mind other than that we will be playing up at Rotherham on Saturday. I've got the player reports on the Rotherham lads in my file and we've been looking over those as we continue our preparations.
"Our travelling arrangements have also been made, so we are planning to play the game until someone tells us otherwise."