DONCASTER Rovers striker Billy Paynter is a proven finisher at League One level.The last time the 28-year-old played in the third tier of English football, he was the division’s top scorer with 29 for Swindon Town.
His best-ever seasonal tally may just have failed to get Swindon promoted to the Championship but his efforts secured him a place in the league with Leeds United.
Unfortunately for both parties, Paynter was unable to reproduce the form he had shown at the County Ground during his two years at Elland Road.
“I came here and trained for a day before the start of the season and all the lads were spot on and it made my decision to come here easy,” said Paynter.
But the move looked to be doomed when the two parties couldn’t agree terms.
“It was up in the air and I had to go back to Leeds but thankfully it was all sorted out a few days later,” he recalled.
“I’ve no regrets about coming here; I just wish that it had been sorted sooner and that I’d been more involved in pre-season.
“I didn’t feature in any pre-season games at Leeds and I was training by myself, which was not ideal because it is hard to push yourself. It would have been nice to have been here and got my fitness in with the rest of the lads.
“The first couple of games I played for the club really could have been pre-season games to build my fitness levels up.”
Paynter made his debut for Rovers in the 3-0 win at Walsall on the opening day of the season.
“Even though we played well and it was a great win by us I could still tell that I was lacking,” he said.
“I think I played around 60 minutes,” he said. “It was the manager’s decision to bring me off at that stage; nothing had been arranged in advance. I think he noticed that I was struggling and with us being three goals up he decided to bring me off.
“It was a good win but it probably raised fans’ expectations.
“I’m sure some of them must have thought that with us coming down that we should win every game, but League One is a tough league to be going to every ground expecting to win. We will find it hard at some places but I think we’ve got players with the ability to upset teams.
“Obviously a lot of the players who had been here for the last few years have moved on, but we’ve still got a strong-looking squad and the manager has recruited well. Having said that, I’m sure that he would have liked to have kept some of the players who have gone but finances dictated otherwise.
“But he’s brought some good players in within his reduced budget and everyone has gelled.
“Because some of us, including myself, didn’t arrive until around the start of the season we’ve had to gel together during games rather than in pre-season.
“Taking everything into account things have gone well and I think that there is more to come this season.
“It is still early days and the gaffer is still working on things with the players on the training field.
“The postponed game against Oldham recently gave us a fortnight without a game and it was like a mini pre-season for people like me and I was able to work on my fitness and the manager was able to work on one or two things in training.
“Unfortunately I picked up a little thigh strain last Friday - I took a shot and I felt a little niggle - and I’ve missed the last two matches against Colchester and Sheffield United.”
Had he played against the Blades at Bramall Lane on Tuesday Paynter would likely to have found himself well marked given that United boss Danny Wilson was the man in charge during his time at Swindon.
Although the odds would look to be against Paynter being as prolific for Rovers as he was for Swindon at League One level, the striker is still setting his sights high this season, though how high he is keeping to himself.
After setting up Chris Brown’s goal at Walsall, and going close himself a couple of times, Paynter got off the mark in his last outing at Yeovil.
“It was a disappointing result for the team but on a personal level it was good to get my first goal for the club,” he said.
“It was just a shame it was so late in stoppage time. Had it been a bit earlier we might have rescued a result.”
Yeovil were flying high at the time but have suffered a couple of recent setbacks.
“It’s still early doors and there will be teams who are on a good run and it is how they respond after one or two defeats which will sort out the teams more likely to stay the course,” said Paynter.
“Tranmere are flying at the moment and they are having their good spell and it will be interesting to see how they do in the next few weeks.”
Tomorrow’s visitors to the Keepmoat Stadium, Stevenage, have also made an impressive start and head the chasing pack.
“As well as doing well in the league last season they had a good FA Cup run, so they are obviously not a bad side,” said Paynter.
“I would imagine that they’ll be coming here looking to try and stop us playing and try and catch us on the break, like a lot of teams will probably do.
“I think we are going to have to be patient on the day and just play our own game. It is important not to let yourself be dragged into playing the opposition’s game.
“You can’t go out guns blazing and try and score two or three goals in the first ten minutes or so.”
Teams and ref
ROVERS (possible): G Woods; Quinn, Jones, McCombe, Spurr; Cotterill, Woods, Syers, Bennett; Paynter, Brown.
Stevenage (possible): Day; Gray, Roberts, Ashton, Comminges; Atkins, Shroot, Grant, Tansey; Freeman, Agyemang.
phillip gibbs (West Midlands): Has averaged four yellow cards per game in his seven games to date this season and issued a red in his last outing.