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McDonnell arrives, Fitzsimons departs

A switch between the sticks

3 February 2020

We have completed the signing of goalkeeper Joe McDonnell on a deal until the end of the season.

The 25-year-old was most recently at AFC Wimbledon, where he worked with Neal Ardley and Neil Cox, and his arrival has paved the way for Ross Fitzsimons to return to Chesterfield on loan for the remainder of the campaign.

Cox said: “We had a very amicable chat with Ross this morning and he’s decided to move on.

“While we wanted Ross to stay and provide competition for our goalkeeping spot, the manager can’t guarantee anyone a starting role in the team.

“Ross wants to play as many games as he can and he feels Chesterfield will be the best place for him to do that. We wish him well.”

Cox is now looking forward to being reacquainted with McDonnell, who emerged as our top target after Sam Slocombe suffered a thigh injury in training 10 days ago.

“We’ve had a good look around alongside the owners, who have been absolutely brilliant,” said Cox.

“We mentioned we knew Joe and they sent us some names, all of whom our goalkeeping coach Jake Kean did a lot of research on, and in the end we made a collective decision to go for Joe.

“Over the last four years he’s been unlucky to have been in and out of the first team at Wimbledon, with players like Aaron Ramsdale keeping him out, so he is delighted to have the opportunity to come here and show what he can do.

“He’s a good age, a calming influence on the pitch and a great lad to have in the dressing room, so this is a great opportunity for us as well as him.”

Fitzsimons’ departure means Kean will be the man to provide McDonnell with competition for his starting place.

“We want two players in every position, so Jake now needs to step up and make sure he’s ready to play should we need him,” said Cox.

“Fingers crossed he won’t be required but, as he proved against Chesterfield in the FA Trophy and throughout his playing career, he is more than capable.

“We’ve been really impressed with Jake as a coach and his ability to still play at a high standard is invaluable in situations like this.”

McDonnell, who’ll wear squad number 40, trained with his new team-mates for the first time this morning and will be eligible to make his debut in Saturday’s Buildbase FA Trophy trip to Yeovil Town.

McDonnell announcement stairs.png

More about Joe

A keen sportsman throughout his life, McDonnell chose football over cricket in his late teens before emerging through the ranks at Basingstoke.

A former centre-forward, McDonnell was convinced to pursue a career between the sticks and flourished under the tutelage of Basingstoke's former keeper coach Ashley Bayes.

Bayes later paved the way for McDonnell to experience life at a professional club by inviting him to train at AFC Wimbledon, where he impressed sufficiently to earn a contract in 2014.

The switch to full-time training further aided his development but strong competition at Kingsmeadow meant his first-team opportunities were limited, eventually leading to his decision to depart south London last week.

He's now hoping to cement his position as our number one, with Slocombe sidelined for the foreseeable future.


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