The Exeter and Bristol Rovers players Portsmouth boss Danny Cowley name checks as scouting missions prove productive

Danny Cowley demonstrated League Two could provide the answer to some of his recruitment requirements this summer.

By Mark McMahon
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 4:26 pm

That’s after the Blues boss gave ringing endorsements to some of the division’s stand-out performers on his latest appearance on EFL on Quest on Saturday night – with players from Exeter and Bristol Rovers casually referred to.

At no point does it suggest that Cowley has all of a sudden let slip some of his plans for the upcoming transfer window – although The News understands that Gas frontman Aaron Collins is high on his radar.

Nevertheless, it at still provides a glimpse into the information and player data the Pompey manager has been gathering on his well-documented scouting missions this season.

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It also offers an insight into who has caught his eye as he looks to strengthen the Blues’ promotion credentials after a disappointing 10thplaced League One finish this term.

So has been grabbing his attention from League Two when he and brother Nicky have been out and about?

Well, according Cowley, Exeter certainly have at least one or two individuals who have impressed him this term – namely, right-back/wing-back Josh Key and central midfielder Archie Collins.

Both home-grown 22-year-olds have been mainstays of the Grecians side that won promotion back to League One last weekend.

Exeter wing-back Josh Key Picture: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Key made 49 appearances this season, scoring twice and creating four goals, as he continued his rapid development following his breakthrough campaign the year before.

Meanwhile, the combative Collins registered 43 outing and two goals as he helped Matt Taylor’s side finish second behind League Two winners Forest Green Rovers.

Both occupy positions Pompey will want to recruit in this summer and fit the young, up-and-coming, hungry remit which the Blues will be working towards in the coming months.

Yet both players only signed new deals with the St James Park outfit last year and would no doubt come with hefty fees if Cowley were to firm up any interest.

The Pompey boss told EFL on Quest: ‘They (Exeter) have had a fantastic second half of the season.

‘We played them in the Papa John’s Trophy just at the beginning of January and they were a good team.

They’re well supported by their academy, have got some fantastic players – Josh Key at right-back and Archie Collins in central midfield, just to name two.

‘A really good club on the up.

‘They’ve been trying to get promoted for a long time now, so pleased they managed to get over there line.’

Part of Cowley’s travels this term have taken taken him to Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Stadium.

The Gas won promotion back to the third tier thanks to their 7-0 hammering of Scunthorpe on the final day of the season.

Among the goalscorer that crucial day were Aaron Collins (2) and highly-rated Newcastle loanee Elliot Anderson.

And they, alongside former Lincoln man Harry Anderson, have certainly been catching Cowley’s eye as he looks to add goals to his own team’s ranks.

The Blues boss added: ‘I’ve watched them (Bristol Rovers) two or three times live in recent weeks and been really, really impressed with them.

‘Elliot Anderson, Harry Anderson and Aaron Collins, just to name three in their attacking line, carry so much goal threat.

‘They’ve got such a rhythm to their performances. They were really close last week to losing at Rochdale and they managed to turn that game around.

‘For them to win 7-0 (against Scunthorpe), I thought it was a brilliant performance by them. In terms of their quality of play, I thought they were outstanding.’

Seventeen-goal striker Collins has caught the eye so much that Cowley is weighing up a move for the 24-year-old Welshman, who has also enjoyed productive goalscoring spells at Forest Green and Morecambe.

He would command a fee, though, with the player having a year left on his existing Rovers agreement.

Elliot Anderson was a key influence in Joey Barton’s side success over the second half of the season after he recorded seven goals and six assists in 20 starts following his loan move from Newcastle in January.

As a result, the 19-year-old now has a host of clubs interested in taking him on loan next season.

Meanwhile, the winger’a scintillating form has not gone unnoticed by St James' Park boss Eddie Howe.

Harry Anderson, of course, played under Cowley at Lincoln and was tipped for a reunion with his former boss at Fratton Park last summer following his Imps release.

The 25-year-old scored six time in 49 Gas appearances this season, and assisted in four goals.