The issues Bristol Rovers have already addressed in the January transfer window with two key positions filled

Joey Barton has been given the tools to gear his side for a strong finish to the 2021/22 campaign with two key positions filled in this window

Bristol Rovers have seemingly finished their business in the January transfer window after conducting two early deals.

Ryan Loft, signed from Scunthorpe United joined on January 4 whilst centre-back James Connolly joined on a season-long loan last Saturday.

There may be some outgoings and whilst the door isn’t shut entirely on any potential incomings, this feels like a settled squad for Joey Barton to work with.

Given the early questions as we approached the transfer window, it seems that not even at the half-way stage, there are reasons to be content.

Number-nine found early

The main priority in this transfer window was getting an out-and-out number nine over the line.

They did that early with the addition of Loft who could make his debut against Hartlepool United on Saturday.

At 24-years-old, he’s the striker that was needed over the first part of the season but he’s here now.

With injuries to Leon Clarke, who would have been that target man, Rovers have had to play makeshift trikers Evans and Nicholson together.

The arrival of Loft means that the team can now play through the six foot three front-man, either as a lone striker or working alongside a strike partner with Aaron Collins the most suitable suggestion.

With 15 goals over the course of 62 games, they aren’t prolific numbers but even though goals are paraded as the most important attribute to a striker’s game, his arrival will give a buzz to the team.

Cardiff City defender James Connolly has been brought in to cover for the injured Alfie Kilgour. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Defensive cover

The injury to Alfie Kilgour came as a massive blow as for what has been an injury-hit season for Rovers, the centre-back trio of Cian Harries, Connor Taylor and Kilgour has been settled.

Now two of them are injured whilst Harries is returning to suspension after Rovers finally played a game just under a month since their last one.

But a signing that quite literally came out of the blue, signing from the Bluebirds. Cardiff City defender James Connolly had been linked in the morning and in the afternoon was donning the blue and white quarters of Rovers in the FA Cup.

Connolly, a target for the club in the summer after his release from Blackburn, adds depth into an area they were short on.

Given his contract expires with the Welsh team in the summer, he could be playing for his future in senior football which means he will have to maintain a high level of performance.

Bristol Rovers may be better suited playing academy youngsters than pursuing any other transfers. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Room for one more?

It’s hard to look now where another signing may come in from but it could be another loan deal or a free transfer.

As Connolly is under the age of 21, he doesn’t take up a spot when registering him in a squad list. There is space to sign a player over the age of 21 and that is probably what they might go for if anyone does come in.

No names have been bandied about but perhaps someone of a similar mould to Mark Hughes would work. Hughes moved to Plymouth Argyle as a first-team coach with the club receiving no compensation.

The difficulty in getting an expected defender in is that there isn’t a free agent out there other than someone like David Wheater, who was at Oldham Athletic last season.

Also unless there is a serious push for a play-off spot, then who is there to entice to come on board?

There is also a suggestion that maybe the likes of Luca Hoole and Pablo Martinez should be given a chance. Hoole coped well with the Rochdale defence whilst Martinez conceded a penalty.

Joey Barton did say he might look to get another forward player and throughout this window a reunion with Ellis Harrison was mooted but he has since joined Fleetwood.

With Harvey Saunders and Leon Clarke back on the pitches down Almondsbury, as well as Aaron Collins and Brett Pitman in the first-team picture, a second striker may seem unlikely.

Contract renewals

As we discussed yesterday, it’s of the belief that contract discussions will take place when the window shuts, which makes sense.

Some players are out of contract in the summer and for any clubs sniffing around the Rovers squad, they may use that to their advantage to negotiate a deal that suits them.

Antony Evans and Sam Nicholson are two players that fans are keen to see commit their future but what if an ambitious club comes in for them? Every player always has an ambition to play at the highest level and both have shown they are more than capable of playing at this level.

Evans statistically is the best performing player in the squad with 12 goal contributions this season. For a team battling in League One or needing that spark to get promoted, they might identify him as someone who can do that.

Neither player has been linked with a move away it has to be said or for anyone for that matter.

Fringe players like Zain Westbrooke seem like the only possible departures but as is the nature of a transfer, things can happen over a short space of time.