Baffins Milton Rovers boss Shaun Wilkinson: Why I decided to sign ‘battering ram’ veteran striker Craig McAllister

Baffins Milton Rovers boss Shaun Wilkinson has explained the reasons behind signing veteran Craig McAllister.

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 10:44 am
Craig McAllister made a goalscoring debut for Baffins Milton Rovers at Moneyfields earlier this week. Picture:  Martyn White
Craig McAllister made a goalscoring debut for Baffins Milton Rovers at Moneyfields earlier this week. Picture: Martyn White

The 41-year-old has been reunited with Wilkinson, who was assistant manager of Eastleigh when the striker returned to the club from Newport County in 2012.

McAllister was a target for Baffins last summer, but ended up playing at step 4 for Southern League newcomers Lymington. But seeing his side struggle on a heavy pitch at Folland in a Wessex League Cup tie in November made Wilkinson’s mind up to try again.

The former professional made an instant impact on his debut at Moneyfields last Monday, partnering Jason Parish up front and netting the equaliser as Rovers came from 0-2 down to win 3-2 - their sixth straight Wessex Premier success.

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‘I was heavily involved in bringing Craig to Eastleigh and I know what he’s capable of,’ Wilkinson remarked. ‘I don’t think Jason Parish is an out and out No 9, he likes to play off a striker.

‘Bringing in Craig will take some of the pressure off Jason - he won’t have to go for the headers, he won’t take the whacks off the centre half, he can use his pace which is his strength.

‘Craig is an out and out No 9, he’s a battering ram. If we’d had him at Hamble I think he’d have scored two or three headers.

‘I tried to sign Craig in the summer and I thought I had him. But he was training with Stoneham, he injured his knee, and he rang me up to say he was retiring.’

McAllister, though, later returned to action at Lymington, where he scored twice in 13 appearances in the pandemic-ravaged 2020/21 campaign.

Prior to that, he had helped Blackfield & Langley win the Wessex in 2017/18 and, after a season as player-manager of Gosport Borough, was part of the Alresford team that was top of the table when Covid-19 forced the abandonment of grassroots sport two years later.

‘He’s no spring chicken and he might struggle to play two games a week,’ said Wilkinson. ‘We’ve got to look after him, but he’s something different to what we’ve got.

‘We’ve got good options. Alex Przespolewski likes to drop into the hole, he’s cute, he’s clever; Rudi (Blankson) likes to get in behind; Jason likes to play off a big man. Craig complements the other three strikers.’

Wilkinson admits his squad now see themselves as serious title contenders in what promises to be a fascinating title race.

He will select from an unchanged side for this weekend’s home game with third-bottom Bournemouth Poppies.

The Dorset club haven’t won for 15 league games, since a 2-1 victory against second bottom Amesbury in late September. They have only picked up two points from their last nine outings, one of which was a draw against Amesbury.

‘Our season’s flipped round - we’ve won six in a row and we’re now genuine contenders,’ said Wilkinson.

‘Apart from US Pompey, we’re the only local side home this weekend and we’re trying to encourage people to come along and see why we’ve won six in a row.

‘We’ve got to be as professional as we can (against Poppies). It’s easy to get the lads up for a derby against Moneyfields who were desperate to beat us.

‘If you’re complacent, you can come unstuck.’