Crawley boss Richie Barker believes he has a squad capable of mounting a play-off challenge after making his sixth signing of the transfer window yesterday.

Reds beat off competition from a number of League One rivals to bring in highly-rated young defender Connor Essam on a free transfer from Gillingham.

Essam’s arrival follows the signing of Sierra Leone international Mustapha Dumbuya on Tuesday with Jamie Proctor, Matt Sparrow, Lateef Elford-Alliyu and Jimmy Spencer also coming in since the start of January.

The 20-year-old – who has signed a two-and-a-half year deal – made 18 appearances in League Two for Gills last season but fell out of favour when Martin Allen took over as manager at the Priestfield Stadium in the summer and was sent on loan to Luton Town.

Barker does not plan to make any more signings before the transfer window closes next Thursday and says the additions he has made will give Reds a fighting chance of forcing their way into the top six.

He said: “Hopefully now we can have a really good push. That is why we have brought in the players we have because we believe they can help us get over that line.

“There were a lot of clubs interested in Connor in the summer when he signed a new contract at Gillingham and because he wasn’t playing for them this season that has continued. He had offers for more money from bigger clubs so we are delighted he has chosen to come to us.

“With the others that have come in I think in terms of the strength of our squad we are stronger now than three weeks ago, although losing Hope was a massive blow. I won’t be doing anymore business providing we can keep all the players we have got.”

Barker is growing in confidence that central defender Kyle McFadzean will stay at the club despite interest from Bristol City. The Championship outfit claimed they were close to striking a deal for the 25-year-old last week but McFadzean’s lack of action since November may have put them off.

One player who does look like leaving Broadfield Stadium however is Shaun Cooper who is expected to join former club Portsmouth on loan until the end of the season today. Cooper joined Reds from Bournemouth in the summer but has made just ten appearances due to injury.

Barker says he has not had any approaches for the likes of Josh Simpson, Nicky Adams and Billy Clarke but admits he will not be taking anything for granted until the window closes.

He added: “I’m surprised there hasn’t been any interest in those three because they are all having very good seasons. Nobody has been in touch so far but until the clock ticks over to midnight on January 31 then there is still a possibility.”