Cooper puts his faith in Weston’s goal-scoring Grubb to partner Doidge

Dale Grubb could make his debut for Forest Green Rovers on New Year’s Day after securing a switch from Weston-super-Mare

Manager Mark Cooper has recruited Weston-super-Mare’s Dayle Grubb to bolster Forest Green’s attacking options

Christian Doidge added another goal to his impressive 2017 tally in Forest Green’s FA Cup defeat against Exeter City in midweek

Forest Green Rovers have turned to a 26-year-old school teacher to help provide the goals that will be needed if they are to protect their hard-earned League Two status.

Promoted to the Football League for the first time in their history via the National League play-off final in May, the Gloucestershire club has taken time to adapt.

Currently lodged in the bottom two, Rovers potentially face a protracted fight against relegation during the second half of a campaign that is already proving immensely challenging.

With the January transfer window looming, manager Mark Cooper acknowledges the need to bolster a defence that has conceded too often this season. In the meantime, he has been quick off the mark in order to recruit much-needed support for top-scorer Christian Doidge.

Cooper dipped into the transfer market this week to secure the services of Dayle Grubb on an 18-month deal from National League South outfit Weston-super-Mare. Subject to him being fully fit, he will be available to make his Rovers debut in the home game against Wycombe Wanderers on New Year’s Day.

Grubb may have netted 29 goals in 2017 – a return bettered only by Doidge – but his acquisition represents a calculated gamble. A school teacher at Oldmixon Primary School, he has never previously played professional football, the entirety of his career having been spent on Weston’s books.

Not surprisingly, Grubb has been the subject of interest from other Football League clubs, notably last summer when several came knocking on Weston manager Marc McGregor’s door. Aware of potential interest from Forest Green, even at that stage, he was prepared to bide his time in the belief that a move to the New Lawn would be the best one for him.

Having sanctioned the payment of an undisclosed fee for his services, Cooper believes Grubb possesses the qualities required to negotiate the step-up from non-League to full-time professional football.

“Dayle has great ability, can go past people and score goals,” said Cooper. “The more of those you have in the team, the more chance you have of winning games. We think he is one that can certainly come into our squad and help us at the top end of the pitch.

“You look at his goal record compared to anyone else we have signed and it is fantastic for someone who is not really a striker. He’s certainly one I expect to chip in with goals.”

While admitting jumping two divisions is a challenge, it is one Grubb is prepared to meet head on. “It’s a step I’ve wanted to take for a while and I’m delighted I’ve signed,” said Grubb, who caught Cooper’s eye during a pre-season friendly fixture between Forest Green and Weston.

“I’ve really enjoyed where I’ve been playing, but feel I need to take that next step up the Pyramid. League football will obviously be a lot different, a lot quicker, a lot tougher, but I believe I can do it. I won’t know until I take that step, but I’m confident I can do well.”

Rovers have become heavily dependent on Wales-born striker Doidge for goals this term and any injury that laid him low would almost certainly deliver a savage blow to the team’s hopes of moving up the table in the New Year.

He again underlined his importance to Rovers when netting in a recent 2-1 FA Cup second round replay defeat at the hands of League Two rivals Exeter City, who eventually progressed by virtue of an extra-time goal from Jayden Stockley.

Instead of hosting Premier League West Bromwich Albion in a high-profile third round tie on Saturday, January 6, Rovers will instead meet Port Vale in a proverbial relegation ‘six-pointer’ at the New Lawn, a contest that will very likely provide new-boy Grubb with an opportunity to make his home debut.

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.