By Nathan Bees
Like all Rovers fans I was very annoyed and concerned last Saturday evening. Not only had we just been comfortably beaten by Chesterfield to drop perilously close to the relegation zone but we had also failed to make any Deadline Day signings to improve our misfiring strikeforce.
It was a bad weekend.
Fast-forward to today and we have already rectified one of those disappointments in the form of a new striker. Steven Gillespie is the new man and he has signed outside the Transfer Window as he was unattached after having his contract paid up with Fleetwood Town last week.
He has enjoyed spells with Cheltenham Town and Colchester United in recent years after beginning his career with local rivals Bristol City, and is renowned for being a decent goalscorer.
Sure, in an ideal world we would bring in a player who is fully fit, firing on all cylinders and desperate to pull on the quarters but in reality that isn’t going to happen.
Anyone who thinks it does (and as a result is disappointed with Gillespie signing) is probably a little naive. No club would want to let go of an in-form player so why would a struggling League Two club be able to sign one in their hour of need?
Gillespie has a proven track record in Leagues One and Two and despite a lean period of appearances and goals there is still a poacher in there waiting to be unleashed.
He’s 28 and has a point to prove, which should mean we have a player on our hands who is determined to re-establish himself as a lower league predator.
John Ward has used Thursday’s Press Call to offer a background on his latest recruit given the fact he has worked with him before at Colchester and there is every chance he will feature against Oxford United tomorrow.
He has the credentials to be exactly the type of player we’ve been looking for and I for one will be right behind him from the minute he steps on to the Memorial Stadium pitch for the first time.
There is no guarantee he will be a success - every transfer has an element of risk attached to it - but let’s give him a chance to show what he can bring to the team before judging him.
The interesting thing will be to see if Ward opts to utilise Gillespie in his favoured position alongside a big man. Ward has been an advocate of the 4-2-3-1 formation in recent months and he has stuck with it.
Personally I would like to see him play with a partner as it’s a tried and tested method but who am I to disagree with our manager? With the two of them having worked together in the past I’m confident that Ward will use him to good effect - our Football League status depends on it.
The club also made another astute signing yesterday by investing in new rain covers for our battered Mem pitch. They were laid out 24 hours ago to protect the playing surface from the forecasted rain and it gives our game with Oxford United every chance of going ahead.
Beyond tomorrow the covers will prove to be a great help in ensuring future home matches go ahead too, including Tuesday night’s local clash with Cheltenham Town.
There will be a big crowd to see us face the U’s and it’s a game I’m looking forward to with renewed optimism after the signing of a new striker.
Our yellow friends have the best away record in the country and regardless of the fact they have no permanent manager ahead of the clash they will provide us with our toughest test to date.
They will fancy their chances as an undefeated outfit on the road and will start the game with pace and purpose in an attempt to get their noses in front early. Their players will have every intention of recording a comfortable victory over a lowly fourth tier side and it will be interesting to see if we’re up for the battle.
We will have to overcome the power they possess up front to give ourselves any chance of coming out on top but we did it at the Kassam Stadium and we can do it again tomorrow.
If our back four have recovered from last weekend against Chesterfield then we give ourselves a solid platform from which to build on.
Kaid Mohamed and Eliot Richards should be ready to go after a week’s rest and if we can replicate the clinical finishing we produced a fortnight ago against Newport County then we will cause Oxford problems.
Bring it on.