Bristol Rovers boss John Ward praises players for bouncing back after difficult week
Bristol Rovers boss John Ward praised his players for reacting positively in the face of adversity after watching them secure a convincing victory over promotion-chasing Burton Albion at the Memorial Stadium this afternoon.
Ward watched goals from Ryan Brunt, John-Joe O’Toole and Eliot Richards secure a 3-0 victory to bring Burton’s recent four-game winning streak to an end.
The win served to end a difficult week in which Rovers suffered a 1-0 defeat at Northampton and also lost midfielder Seanan Clucas and striker David Clarkson to season-ending injuries on a high note.
Ward said: “What we have shown is that even a little bit of adversity over the last two or three games, we have stayed strong, mentally and physically.
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“I think that it was very important to show that to everyone concerned with this football club. The players have played pretty well, even in the games we have lost, and today we have put a side in the top three to the sword a little bit.
“The players are gaining in confidence and they have recognised that they can beat these teams around the top of the league. We are right in there and I feel that our team is starting to earn a little bit of respect from other teams in this league.
“If they work exceptionally hard and are on their game, they can be a good test for anyone. We’ve won games quite tightly before and today it was pleasing that we managed to convert some of our opportunities to win by a three-goal margin.”
The victory moved Rovers, who are now six points clear of the relegation zone, into their highest league position of the season so far after they leapfrogged York City into 17th place, but Ward said: “We’re not going to stop at that.
“We need to keep improving all the time and I think we are. We’ve stepped up a place in the division, which is great, but I won’t let anyone get complacent or think that we’ve cracked it.
“There are 11 games left before we can say we have cracked anything and we need to continue working together until we make sure that we are still playing league football next season.”
Ward, meanwhile, handed Ellis Harrison a first start at the Memorial Stadium and watched the youngster produce an exciting performance, which included an assist for the third goal, before he was offered a standing ovation for his display when substituted in the 80th minute.
“Ellis is young lad with little fear, who just wants to go out and play football,” Ward said. “He has got power and confidence and I knew it wouldn’t faze him. The kid’s a player and he is going to have a very good career in the game.”
Joe Anyinsah, however, was withdrawn in the 25th minute with a hamstring complaint and will be assessed before Wednesday night’s game against Exeter City at the Memorial Stadium.