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Rowe laments Gater's Gornal exit
2:40pm Thursday 19th July 2012 in Football
IAN Rowe admits the departure of Connor Gater has left a massive hole in Gornal Athletic ’s defence.
The centre-back has joined Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division outfit Stourbridge for pre-season after helping the Peacocks to a league and cup double last season.
Manager Rowe has wished Gater all the best but says he will not be easy to replace.
He said: “Connor is twice the player he was when he left Halesowen to come here.
“He is mentally and physically stronger, the sky is the limit as far as he is concerned and I wish him all the best.
“It’s always gutting to lose a player of his quality but at the same time I’m really pleased for him.
“He is joining a good club with a good manager. In my opinion he is as good as any player in this area at this level.
“We have been fortunate to have him here for two years but It was always going to be a matter of time before someone took him off us.”
Mark Willetts, who was unavailable for much of last season, will now battle for the centre-back position with Keiron Parsons and new signing Curtis Tilt.
But with skipper Chris Waterhouse likely to be unavailable on some weekends due to his work commitments, Rowe is on the lookout for defensive reinforcements.
One player definitely arriving at the Garden Walk is former Dudley Sports and Tividale striker Chris Rabone, who has joined from AFC Wulfrunians.
There have also been additions to the backroom staff. Former Stourbridge secretary Nick Pratt has joined as goalkeeping coach, with Dan Simpson coming in as football advisor and coach Richus White making the switch from Tividale.
Meanwhile, the fixture computer has handed the Peacocks a tough start to life in the Midland Alliance as they open against two sides who finished in the top six last season.
Rowe takes his side to Rocester on Saturday, August 4, before they host Westfields on Tuesday, August 7.
He said: “It’s going to be tough but the one thing our lads won’t do is lie down.
“We have an honest bunch of players.”