Cooper needs to add two players before window shuts

ALTHOUGH the new football season is still in its embryonic stages, we have already learned a good deal from Forest Green Rovers’ early forays in League Two.

Promoted via the National League play-offs in May, the ‘little club on the hill’ is embarking upon a ground-breaking journey of exploration into previously uncharted territory.

Given the prevailing circumstances, it is difficult to make firm predictions regarding their prospects at such an early stage of the campaign. Yet it seems fair to suggest that, based on the available evidence from three games, that Rovers require further reinforcements before the transfer window closes on August 31.

Manager Mark Cooper and his staff continue to scour the transfer market in search of new recruits to address perceived weaknesses in two key areas.

Cooper has himself gone on record confirming the need for another central defender, preferably one of the more experienced variety, to help shore up a defence that has yet to register a clean sheet.

It was apparent that all was not quite as it should be in that particular department when Barnet were permitted to stage a second-half fightback and leave the New Lawn with a share of the spoils on the opening-day of the season.

The same issues resurfaced in the defeat at Mansfield last week, the Stags netting twice in a second half in which they exposed deficiencies at the heart of Forest Green’s defence.

Ethan Pinnock’s summer transfer to Barnsley created a hole in defence that has only partially been filled by the arrival of the experienced Lee Collins from Mansfield.

Recruited on-loan from West Bromwich Albion last month, young centre-back Jack Fitzwater is considered a work in progress and it can be argued there is a requirement for another centre-back to provide cover and competition for Collins and Manny Monthe.

At the other end of the pitch, Rovers are fortunate to have Christian Doidge at their disposal. Top-scorer with 27 in the National League last season, the Welshman has picked up where he left off, netting twice in the 2-2 draw with Barnet to suggest he can flourish in League Two.

But he found himself effectively shackled by a Mansfield defence that scarcely permitted him a sight of goal and it is already abundantly clear that he is going to need additional support in the challenging weeks and months that lie ahead.

Cooper did his utmost to lure play-off final goal-hero Kaiyne Woolery back to the New Lawn following his successful loan spell in Gloucestershire, only to lose out to divisional rivals Swindon Town in the race for the Wigan striker’s signature.

With 11 days remaining until the transfer window closes, Cooper has long since moved onto alternative targets and the next week could be a busy one at the New Lawn.

While a one-point return from the opening two games was hardly ideal, performances against Barnet and Mansfield in no way warranted the level of anxiety displayed by some Rovers fans.

This is no time to be pressing the panic button, especially as there have been signs in all three games so far, that Rovers are only a couple of additions away from being perfectly able to compete in League Two.

It might help those with short memories to recall the less than auspicious start made to last season. And everyone knows how that ended.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.