Andy Jones

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ANDY Jones vindicated manager Bernie McNally's recent decision to move him from central defence to striker with a hat-trick in Newtown's stunning 5-2 away win at Prestatyn on Saturday.

The arrival of loanee defender Connell Rawlinson from The New Saints in mid-November allowed McNally to make the bold move, despite having fit strikers available to fill the role.

"The management team have felt for some time that we needed more physicality up front, to be able to retain possession for us," McNally explained.

Unable to sign suitable players because of budgetary constraints at Latham Park, McNally added: "We need to be able to retain the ball in the attacking third of the pitch instead of a hopeful punt forward which can immediately come back onto our defence and put us under constant pressure.

"AJ is the perfect one to fit the bill - he is a big, strong and technically gifted player who can adapt to different positions. 

"He also commands respect from his fellow players.

"Since we have played him up front, the opposing managers have been pointing out to me and to Andy himself, how well he played and put their back four under pressure."

A centre-back who was selected to attend the English Universities' squad trials while studying at Worcester University in 2008, 27-year-old Jones has also been on the books of Shrewsbury Town, AFC Telford United, Hednesford Town, Bromsgrove Rovers, Stourport Swifts and Redditch United, joining Newtown from Evesham United almost a year ago.

And he is not the first Newtown player to be handed a different position by McNally.

"Craig Williams came back to us from Aberystwyth as a right back and has transformed himself into a fine attacking midfielder, playing his best football for years," McNally went on.

"Luke Boundford came to the club as a right back as well and has become a very competent striker.

He is a big, strong and technically gifted player who can adapt to different positions.

"AJ has been terrific for us in the short time in this position and his team-mates are supportive of his abilities, being delighted with the new dimension he has brought to the team. 

"He has held the ball up well, challenged defenders with his strength and brought other players into play very skillfully."

McNally's decision was received with scepticism by Robins' supporters for the first few games but their views will certainly have been changed by Saturday's well-taken hat-trick, which has brought much-needed Christmas cheer to mid-Wales.

And although Jones was under McNally's wing when at Hednesford Town, the manager's inspiration could well have come from higher-up the football ladder.

"There have been good examples in the English Premier League over the years with the likes of Chris Sutton and Dion Dublin switching from centre halves to strikers," McNally added.

"If a player has the versatility to cope with the move, which AJ has, then they can be very good for the team. 

"We have to adapt the players we have at our disposal to the roles we need to fill and I will have to continue doing that as things stand."