PREVIEW: AFC Wimbledon vs Bristol Rovers
DAVID Clarkson has paid tribute to the part Bristol Rovers fans have played in helping him adapt to a new position and overcome the problem of being an ex-Bristol City player.
The Scottish striker anticipated a tricky settling-in period after switching from Ashton Gate during the summer, but is full of praise for the backing he has received from Pirates supporters.
It has given him the confidence to move from his customary striker's role to perform effectively in midfield as cover for injured skipper Matt Gill, earning glowing plaudits from boss Mark McGhee.
Clarkson, pictured, said: "The fans have been great to me. I'm sure some of them didn't know what to think at the start because I had come from City, but they have welcomed me with open arms and I have nothing but good things to say about them.
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"Hopefully, I can repay them by scoring a lot of goals and helping the club win promotion. I feel a corner has been turned after our poor start. The players are more confident and we can feel the fans sharing our belief, which is hugely important."
Clarkson was always going to be a threat going forward from midfield, but also feels he has the defensive qualities to cope when his team are under pressure, as may well prove the case at AFC Wimbledon tonight.
"I think I have the defensive side of the game to cope," he said. "I consider myself very fit, so I can push forward and still have the legs to get back when necessary. We have to adjust to playing away as a team and be more compact than we were against Torquay on Saturday. I played in midfield for Bristol City a few times so it is not entirely new to me. And, having been a professional for ten years, I feel I should have the experience to change roles.
"I scored from right midfield against Exeter and central midfield against Burton, so I still expect chances to come my way."
Clarkson is encouraged by Rovers' run of only one defeat in seven games, but believes they need to become more ruthless for the progress to continue. Two up against Torquay's ten men we should have gone on to score three of four and kept a clean sheet," he said. That didn't happen and it's something we need to work on.
"At half time we talked about scoring more goals, but we missed some chances and are not killing teams off when we are on top.
"At Burton we were one up and had opportunities to go further ahead, Like Torquay, they were given a lift when they scored and that made life harder for us.
"The lesson from both matches was that we need to be at it for 90 minutes and not switch off at any stage."
A feature of Clarkson's performance against Torquay was his deft one-touch passing, which contributed much to a slick first half display. I was taught from a young level to see the next pass before the ball reached me and it has become part of my game to move the ball on as quickly as I can," he said.
"One touch passing in tight situations and getting the ball wide when possible are part of my job in midfield. I'm enjoying it and as long as I am scoring goals I am happy. I've operated as a striker throughout my career and still want to play there, but I'll do what the manager asks of me for as long as he wants.
"After being in and out of the first team for so much of my time at City I am just delighted to be playing regularly. "I'm loving it at Rovers. I'm still ambitious to play at a higher level, but, hopefully, the team can progress and we can achieve that together."