Changing of the guard: Saunders has not given up on Stevenage pair

Stevenage Borough's Jon Ashton in action against Sheffield United.
Stevenage Borough's Jon Ashton in action against Sheffield United.

DEAN Saunders could be set to test Stevenage’s resolve to hold onto defensive pair Jon Ashton and Mark Roberts after being frustrated in his attempts to strengthen his squad.

Saunders had hoped to add two more players to his wafer-thin squad this week ahead of the club’s return to pre-season training tomorrow.

But Rovers’ boss admitted this week that his plans have hit a brick wall - and that situation is unlikely to change until players are offloaded.

Saunders is thought to have had a bid rejected for defensive duo Ashton and Roberts, who played more than 50 times for Borough last season, earlier this summer.

But he is understood to be keen on renewing his interest in the pair and could return with an improved offer - but only if Rovers ship out their higher earners.

Defence is a priority area for Saunders after released duo Adam Lockwood and Oscar Radford sealed moves to Bury and Kettering Town respectively this week.

He is also in the market for a big physical striker to play alongside Chris Brown or Robbie Blake.

But after successfully adding Blake and David Cotterill last week, Saunders is once again playing a waiting game.

Saunders told the Free Press: “I’m under instruction from the board and have a budget to work to.

“Some players have got to leave before we get anyone else in.

“It’s not ideal, but that’s the situation we’re in. It’ll all come together in the long run.”

Saunders added there was no truth in rumours linking him with a move for Brentford forward Clayton Donaldson and Scottish forward Derek Riordan, a free agent after leaving St Johnstone this summer.

Another player to be linked with Rovers is former Barnsley and Reading midfielder Brian Howard.

Howard’s agent has been in contact with Saunders about his client’s availability but, as yet, there is nothing else to report.

Rovers report back for pre-season training at Cantley Park tomorrow ahead of their first friendly at Cleethorpes Town on July 14.