Bristol Rovers boss John Ward heaps praise on defenders after hard-fought victory over Wycombe
Bristol Rovers boss John Ward was full of praise for a rapidly-improving back four after watching his side climb out of the bottom six for the first time this season.
A solitary 35th minute strike from Rovers striker Ryan Brunt was enough to secure a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers at the Memorial Stadium this afternoon to increase the gap between Ward's side and the relegation zone to seven points.
Ward, however, was quick to praise his defenders for another resolute display to keep a fourth clean sheet of the season during a game in which Wycombe dominated possession for long spells.
"I'm very proud of the boys," said Ward. "That is as good a win as any that we've had because we really had to dig in.
17th Edition 8 way fuse boards prevent fires & improve electrical safety. Save £28 on 8 way fuse boards for a limited time only with A & D Electrical.
Terms: Bristol and Bath areas.
Contact: 0117 2448240
Valid until: Monday, May 20 2013
"We had to keep our shape and our discipline for long spells and it was a performance that epitomised everything we have tried to do here since I arrived.
"We didn't have to rely on (goalkeeper) Steve Mildenhall to keep us in the game because of how strong our defenders were in front of him.
"Our two centre backs have been terrific for a number of weeks and Tom Parkes has been recognised for that by winning the player of the month award for January.
"Tom will be the first to tell you that his award is in part down to how strong some of the others have been around him in a back five that has been one area of the team that has been very consistent.
"There is a pride amongst those guys if they keep a clean sheet on a Thursday morning in training. You can see they have that determination and desire in them to let nothing past them when it really matters on a Saturday afternoon.
"I don't think I am great at coaching defending, but it was an area in which we had to really improve on when I first came in and we have made progress.
"Wycombe probably had more of the ball between the boxes, but we defended them very well. It was a bit of an away performance in that we had to dig in and work hard for what is a very good result for us. There are different ways to win games and at this moment in time it doesn't matter how the victories come."
Rovers also extended their recent unbeaten run to six games, and Ward added: "A lot of it is down to the players.
"You can only be successful if your players respond positively to what you are trying to do. I've tried not to complicate things and then I've just relied on the players to be physically and mentally strong and it is paying off for us."
Young striker Brunt, 19, meanwhile, scored his second goal in five games since joining on a permanent deal from Stoke City during the January transfer window.
"Ryan has made a good start to his career with us," said Ward. "We need to work from a solid base to get results because we are not confident enough to go out and play open football at the minute.
"Ryan has been a key part in that by holding the ball up and tirelessly working the channels for us."
Rovers return to action with a game against Rotherham United at the Memorial Stadium on Tuesday night and Ward added: "We're not getting carried away.
"We have a lot of games to come over the next few weeks so our time to enjoy wins is limited before we have to start thinking about the next one."