Town’s successful start to the new campaign continued last Saturday as despite being second best for the majority of the contest Ben Garner’s side left the County Ground with three points and any thoughts of struggling at the wrong end of the table this season firmly behind them.
After an incredibly dull first half, the game came to life after the break with Rob Hunt having his shot blocked by the goalkeeper, but the introduction of Jonny Williams upped the tempo with the former Cardiff man driving the ball forward and picking out Tyreece Simpson for not only his first goal in a Town shirt but his first at senior level.
Despite Mansfield having a few chances to level up and coming very close on one occasion, it was Simpson’s goal that proved to be the difference, keeping Town at the right end of the table.
After impressing during his time in Wiltshire so far it was a huge relief for every Town fan to see Simpson find the net after not getting his rewards in previous games, but now that he’s found the scoring touch hopefully it’ll become a regular occurrence.
Despite Town’s number nine getting off the mark, it was obvious to everyone a new striker had to be signed before last night’s transfer window deadline, and thankfully Ben Chorley delivered, as 19-year-old forward/winger Alex Gilbert arrived on a season-long loan deal from Brentford.
When his arrival was announced on social media it did create a slight split in opinion with fans on the calibre of the striker signed on deadline day.
Some saying they were underwhelmed and some reminding them it was amazing that we had a squad able to compete at all in League Two after the torrid early summer we had to endure as fans.
And I can certainly see where the first group of fans is coming from, as when I read the tweet and following article announcing the new signing my first thought is ‘who the heck is Alex Gilbert’ but then I have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Firstly, there have been many loans signings where I haven’t heard a thing about them before and they turn out to be a season-defining signing, the first player who springs to mind is Simon Cox.
When he first arrived in August 2007, he signed on an initial six-month loan spell after disappointing spells at Brentford and Northampton and ended up on a mural outside the ground next to Jan Aage Fjortoft and Don Rogers. I’m not putting that level of expectation on Alex Gilbert’s shoulders, but you never know what’s around the corner.
Secondly, I remind myself again that Director of Football Ben Chorley and Head Coach Ben Garner have had an incredibly short amount of time to put any squad together, let alone one that can compete in League Two.
Now that the transfer window is shut, and apart from signing free transfers, this is the squad Ben Garner has to work with until at least January, I’d say most Town fans would agree our management team has done a superb job recruiting thirteen players in such a short amount of time.
Resigning Anthony Grant has been a great move from the club, as the general is relishing the role as the team leader, and is looking back to his best, also resigning Ben Gladwin on a free has so far worked out well with the talented midfielder looking an important player already.
We’ve also seen players arrive nobody would have expected with Louis Reed joining on a free after leaving Peterborough, after a decent season for a side who gained promotion to the Championship you would have predicted he’d end up back in League One at least, so for him to turn up in Wiltshire was amazing business, and he showed last Saturday how important he will be in this campaign.
But of course, the biggest surprise has to be signing current Welsh International midfielder Jonny Williams, who arrives on a free after his release from Cardiff.
Williams has made it clear playing for Ben Garner played a huge part in his decision to sign for Town, and that is a clear indicator of how highly thought of our Head Coach is inside the game, and I predict his links to his previous clubs such as Crystal Palace and West Brom will play a role again during his time at SN1.
With Williams’ inclusion in the current Wales side, he will be missing this Saturday as Town travels to 9th place Stevenage.
With Town’s perfect away record, let’s hope that continues and Town can keep up their impressive early-season momentum.
Lastly, I wanted to personally thank Rob Angus, Matt Waters, and the staff at the ticket office for helping in different ways over the summer, it’s amazing the difference it makes in having people at the top of the club who will go the extra mile for fans, and I massively appreciate it.