Oxford United boss Ian Atkins thanked his chairman, Firoz Kassam, for allowing him to go out and bring in two new signings on transfer deadline day yesterday - when their season is effectively over.

United have nothing left to play for this term, but Kassam agreed that Atkins could sign midfielder David Waterman from Portsmouth and Andy Woodman from Colchester.

Both players put pen to paper on two-year contracts.

There were in fact three signings, with 22-year-old midfielder Kevin Gibbens, who was released last week by Southampton, joining on non-contract forms until the end of the season.

"Fair play to the chairman, he didn't need to agree to the signings, but he's allowed me to, and it is a signal to the fans that we are going in the right direction.

"I hope the fans respond in turn, because if we could get another 500 to 1,000 on the gate tomorrow, that would show the chairman that they really appreciate what he's doing." Guernsey-born Waterman's contract was up at the end of the year, and the former Northern Ireland Under 21 international - he has an Irish mother - has played in Pompey's last 12 games in Division 1.

However, Atkins had an agreement with Portsmouth to take the 24-year-old for nothing before the deadline.

It was made possible by Portsmouth, having received £5m for the sale of striker Peter Crouch to Aston Villa, splashing out £400,000 on midfielder Eddie Howe from neighbouring Bournemouth.

"Waterman is an aggressive defensive midfielder who can break things up and he relishes a battle," Atkins said. "He has been strongly recommended by Jim Smith, who brought him into the team at Portsmouth, and Tony Pulis.

"He would have been available on a 'Bosman' in the summer anyway, but I think, although there's going to be an awful lot of players available then, the better ones will go quickly, and the quality ones clubs will keep.

"Harry Redknapp stood by his word and let us have him, and I'm delighted," Atkins added.

"David had a look around the place and was so impressed that he wanted to come. Plymouth and Luton were after him, but he wanted to join us because he believes we are building something here and that's a positive sign for the football club."

Woodman's signing has been made possible partly because of Wayne Hatswell's departure, and also because Richard Knight has now joined Colchester on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move. But Ian McCaldon may be back in goal for the U's against Hartlepool at The Kassam Stadium tomorrow because Woodman's registration to be able to play in the Easter games just missed yesterday's 12 noon deadline.

On Gibbens, who will not cost the club anything, the United boss says: "He's here on a non-contract basis with a chance to state his case. If we have the opportunity to use him between now and the end of the season, we will do so."