Thursday 21st January 2016
STEVIE AITKEN is enjoying a night off.
Something which he granted his players on Saturday – no training, no match action.
But not something managers tend to get during January. When they’re not talking to potential new players, they’re talking about them.
In fact, so far this month hasn’t just been about new faces signing on at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium. It’s been about existing ones staying.
There used to be a time when a former Scotland international may not have even considered Dumbarton when there was competition from a full-time side.
Darren Barr ensured on Tuesday that those days have ended, joining Steven Saunders in committing his future until the end of the season.
That was despite overtures from a rival to Sons at the bottom of the Championship.
And although no more deals are currently close to completion, Stevie is hopeful of adding to his squad in the 11 days he has left to do business.
He said: “We’re delighted to get them tied up. They’ve been great for us – Darren as captain and Steven after a difficult time.
“He’s worked really hard, chipped in with some vital goals and between the two of them they’re two deals we’re pleased to get done.
“St Mirren wanted to sign Darren and spoke to him and his agent, but thankfully for us we sold the option of staying at Dumbarton the right way. He’s enjoying it here.”
“Further deals are like everything else – we’re still speaking to a lot of people and myself, Stevie Farrell and Stuart Millar have been working hard since before the window opened.
“There’s nothing else agreed, or close to being agreed, but the players we bring in have to be the right ones for Dumbarton.
“Strikers are the main players we are looking at. When you look at the rest of the team we are well covered in a lot of areas. Tom Walsh was another player we were delighted to get – we fought off stiff competition to bring him here.
“Even upfront, Garry Fleming is doing his best to show he can do the job. He’s been terrific and there’s no doubt he can do it for us.
“It’s been tough for him as he’s been asked to play a few positions, including out wide and in central midfield.
“He’s a player we rate very highly but he does need a bit of help upfront, as sometimes he can’t do it all himself. Hopefully that’s something we’ll be able to get.”
Barr will be unable to play against Raith Rovers on Saturday due to suspension, but Walsh is in line for his debut.
He and his new team-mates are keen to build on the recent 2-1 win over Queen of the South, having missed out on the chance of a second victory over the Doonhamers as a result of bad weather.
But although the players did have the chance of a nice, warm house on Saturday afternoon, Stevie and his staff were out braving the cold.
He continued: “We gave the players the day off on Saturday as the weather was not suitable to train in. It was actually quite dangerous on Thursday when we trained at our usual venue.
“So that was great for them, but I managed to scout the country. I started off at St Mirren Park and when that was called off I ended up at Ibrox.
“I’ve not seen any problems with the forecast for this week and I certainly hope there won’t be any as we all want to get back to action.”
Now, as Sons prepare for the Kirkcaldy trip, Stevie hopes that one afternoon, two months ago today, can inspire them.
That was the day when they came back from 3-0 down to draw in the final 10 minutes. Since then, only title chasers Falkirk and Rangers have beaten them.
Sons face no more games against the challengers for honours until Hibernian come to town next month, making the coming games important.
Stevie added: “That game changed things round a bit. We were on a bad run and finding it quite difficult but we showed terrific character to take a point.
“Since then, only the top two teams have beaten us and although it will be difficult away from home on Saturday, the players are confident.
“We’ve competed well against a lot of clubs this season and the next four or five weeks are important. If we get enough points we could be a couple of wins away from our first goal going into the last quarter of the season.
“Morton have had a good season and have kept the momentum going after winning League One last season, but are only six points above us and are in our sights. We’re not looking behind us – only up the way.”
Andy Galloway @AGallowaySport