With no league game this week the focus was on off-pitch matters for Bristol Rovers, writes Steve Knowlson.

We started 2019 outside the League One relegation spots and this was largely thanks to the efforts of caretaker manager Graham Coughlan. He had masterminded a dramatic improvement over the last four matches as Rovers registered three wins and a draw since our last defeat at Sunderland on 15 December.

Last Sunday the Bristol Rovers board made the decision that most Gasheads were hoping for and gave Graham the manager’s job on a permanent basis with the Irishman signing a two-and-a-half-year contract. It was a just reward for an impressive managerial debut. Graham has reinvigorated the team’s performances by keeping the game simple and picking a balanced side. He’s generally named the same team and with this consistency breeding confidence Rovers have looked a more solid and threatening outfit of late.

The decision gives stability to the club as we enter the January transfer window. There are areas that we need to strengthen if we are to pull clear of a relegation dogfight and there are players who would benefit from moving on. I would like to see a big, strong centre forward come in now that we have Rodman and Holmes-Dennis flying down the wings and putting quality balls into the box. Stefan Payne has disappointed in this role, so it could be time for him to look for a move away from the Memorial Stadium.

How much backing the new manager is given in the transfer window remains to be seen and at the time of writing Rovers haven’t signed anyone yet, but if the board want Graham to continue to deliver they need to ensure he has the right players at his disposal.

Gasheads were given some sad news last weekend. Our oldest supporter, Kitty Thorne, passed away at the grand old age of 104. Kitty had been a Rovers fan for almost 70 years and used to take the steam train up to Bristol from her home in Wiltshire – she attended matches right up to late last year. RIP Kitty.

Next up in the league is a visit to Accrington Stanley on Saturday 12 January – let’s hope Rovers can make it another successful away day.