Inside story on how Bristol Rovers made deadline day transfer of Stockport substitute

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Rovers recruitment team liked what they saw from MacDonald at his former club Tranmere

He’s yet to make his debut for Bristol Rovers, but the deadline day signing of Calum Macdonald from Stockport County is an intriguing one. The 25-year-old has joined on a short-term deal until the end of the season, and will provide cover and competition at left-back for Lewis Gordon.

Macdonald was not in the 18-man match-day squad for the Gas’ 2-0 defeat to MK Dons last Saturday, but did go through his warm-ups with the fitness staff on the Memorial Stadium before kick-off. He’ll be hoping to be a part of the travelling contingent against Lincoln City this coming weekend as the club looks to bounce back from three consecutive league defeats.

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His exclusion from the side means a longer wait for fans to see one of their new arrivals, but they’ve already been used to waiting as Gasheads had to wait until right up to the deadline to see the club confirm the signing of Macdonald, as well as Aston Villa’s Lamar Bogarde, but at least with Bogarde his move was straight forward as he did not have a game.

Macdonald’s move was intriguing as for one, he had signed a new contract with Stockport earlier in the window and two, he was amongst the substitutes for Stockport in their match at Crewe last Tuesday night, with the game not finishing until an hour and 15 minutes before the deadline.

Transfer deadline day without games usually consists of conversations being held on the training ground, shirts held up with media teams picturing them in their new shirts, but this was a different story. Assistant coach Andy Mangan unfolds the signing of Macdonald, and how his arrival came about.

“We were talking to Calum before obviously he was named on the bench,” assistant coach Mangan revealed last Thursday. “Dave Chalinor asked him if he would go on the bench just for that game. He wasn’t going to bring him on so there was no risk there to us, or to the boy.”

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“He knew about our interest before, he was obviously waiting for his agent to get it all sorted which he did in plenty of time and then I spoke to him at about half eleven when he got off the coach and he got back into his car. We’re delighted to have Calum, he’s a good kid and a nice lad.”

Rovers have played various systems under Joey Barton this season, with a four-at-the-back the preferred option at the moment. Barton has played with three centre-backs before with his wing-backs quite aggressive but also able to provide defensive cover.

Lewis Gordon, a summer signing from Brentford, who hadn’t been exposed to much senior level football has done well against some of the better teams in League One. Defence however has been issue with the club leaking goals and having statistically the third worst in the division, with only Burton Albion and Forest Green Rovers conceding more.

The arrival of the former Derby County man Macdonald adds depth to the left back, and left wing-back positions after Trevor Clarke was allowed to leave the club earlier in the window, leaving Gordon the only senior left back in the club, with Scott Sinclair having to play in the wing-back role on occasion.

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“Scotty’s done an unbelievable job for us and put in a great shift as a wing-back, but he’s not a left back,” Mangan added. “At the moment we’ve only got Lewis Gordon who, by the way, has done an unbelievable job for his first year in professional football to play the games he’s played and performed the way he has, he’s done really well.”

“We feel we just need that little bit more experience which Calum’s got, so we’re happy. Could it have been better? Absolutely, we hit the bar on a few targets, we’ve got the lads out who we needed to get out, our net spend has improved because we’ve spent less money with the lads we’ve brought in than with the lads that were here.”

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