By Nathan BeesOur game-free weekend has been and gone but there is no shortage of talking points this week as we have made two new signings.
I spoke last Friday about how important it is to strengthen early on in the window and Darrell Clarke has managed to get two deals over the line in plenty of time for tomorrow’s trip to Woking, which is a real signal of intent.
Welsh international Jermaine Easter has signed a permanent deal following his recent departure from Championship side Millwall and it ranks as a hugely impressive capture given our current Conference status. The striker was joined by Leicester City wide man Adam Dawson, who has penned an initial one month loan following a standout spell with strugglers Nuneaton Town.
I for one am excited by the potential impact both men could have on our season. Easter is a striker who has played a part in Swansea City’s and Crystal Palace’s promotions to the Premier League in recent years and he scored in the second tier as recently as Boxing Day, despite being restricted to sporadic appearances under former boss Ian Holloway. League One clubs were interested in acquiring his signature - five of the top 10 clubs according to the man himself - but we were to benefit from his desire to move back to South Wales and he is now keen to score the goals to take us back into the Football League.
I was impressed by his official interview as he seems a level-headed guy who has a genuine wish to make a success of his time with the club. It is easy to say all the right things when you sign for a new club as you want to endear yourself to the fans from day 1, but it isn’t very often that a player plays down the pressure on his shoulders because he has that much belief in his ability. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Jermaine seemed to thrive on the idea people had high hopes for him, which I, and everybody else I am sure, was very encouraged to see.
There is undeniably a huge expectation on him to the ground running, but given the fact Matty Taylor and Nathan Blissett have been scoring goals recently there is no internal pressure being thrust upon him to grab hatfuls of goals straight away. We didn’t need a saviour, we just wanted to add further quality to our strike force and that is exactly what Jermaine provides.
The fact the team is already winning games should help him find his feet and I am sure Adam Dawson is looking forward to playing for a promotion-chasing team as well given his time with struggling Nuneaton. The midfielder earned rave reviews at Liberty Way, earning several Man of the Match awards, scoring a few goals and providing a number of assists - all in a team that was losing week in, week out.
Clarke says the reports he received in the run up to our meeting with Nuneaton a fortnight ago highlighted Dawson as the star man and he sounds like exactly the type of player we need to improve our forward play. I have done my own research on him myself (well, watched a few videos on YouTube) and he looks like he possesses a good delivery from out wide and two quick feet.
I don’t know about you but those are exactly the type of qualities I wanted to see us add this month, and I am sure the likes of Easter, Blissett and Taylor are licking their lips at the service he seems likely to provide them.
What the two signings do is give the manager a selection dilemma ahead of our trip to play-off hopefuls Woking. Does he drop one of Bliss or Taylor in spite of the fact they are in goalscoring form, or does he decide to put Easter on the bench? Does he start Dawson ahead of Gosling, despite the fact the Gibraltar international was one of our star performers over Christmas? Is it best to start both new boys when Woking have no idea what to expect of them, or is it wiser to bring them in more slowly? These are some of the questions Clarke will have to take into account before he names his starting XI tomorrow afternoon.
It seems highly likely that selection headaches will be a weekly occurrence for the manager as the likes of Steve Mildenhall and Neal Trotman have recovered from their injuries this week as well, meaning he has near enough a fully fit squad to choose from. He won’t be complaining about it though because after next Saturday we are in action every weekend until the end of the season and he will want everyone ready to play if called upon.
A win away at a play-off chasing side tomorrow would set the tone nicely and remind Barnet that we are right behind them and intent on pipping them to the post. With 1000+ Gasheads expected to descend on Kingfield there is no doubt that the lads will have superb backing once again and it could make all the difference.
There are no easy games from now until the end of the season because every side has something to play for, whether they are sat at the top or fighting for their lives at the bottom. Every player and manager we come up against will give it everything they have to beat Bristol Rovers and we need to be prepared for that. It is essential that we match our opponents in terms of spirit and commitment first and foremost, as we have done so far, to give ourselves the platform to go on and produce the extra quality needed to win games.
We have done that successfully for a long time now and with our continuing improvement I can see no reason why it shouldn't continue. It is safe to say I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in the coming weeks.
Up the Gas!