Bristol Rovers boss John Ward remains upbeat ahead of Burton Albion test
Bristol Rovers boss John Ward is banging the drum for positivity as his players prepare to welcome promotion-chasing Burton Albion to the Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Rovers will be attempting to bounce back after suffering a 1-0 defeat at Northampton Town on Tuesday night, which narrowed the gap between themselves and the League Two relegation zone to three points.
“It goes without saying that it is nicer when you are six points off the bottom two than when you are three points clear of it,” said Ward.
“It depends on how you look at it, though. If you looked at the table early in January we were in an even worse plight.
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“We are also actually only two or three points off the teams above us, so we’re still looking at it like that to see if we can catch them.
"We’ve had seven games during February and we’ve lost two of them, but we are still in a good position."
Northampton midfielder Ben Harding’s 88th minute strike at Sixfields on Tuesday night consigned Rovers to their second defeat in third games, but Ward said: “Results are paramount, but performances, for me, come first.
“The defeat at Northampton was the third since we all came together as a group in the last 12 games. If you look at the block as a whole we have had nine positive results and 12 very good performances.
"The lads put everything into trying to get a positive result on Tuesday, which made losing the game late on so difficult to take.
“The most important thing for me is how you deal with a setback. These guys have been together long enough to know that there are plenty of positives for us to focus on going into what are three very big games for us over the next week or so.
“What we have to concentrate on is maintaining our current level of performance. I think we have played well, even in the games we have lost, and I am happy with how the boys are going about their business.”
Third-placed Burton will arrive at the Memorial Stadium harbouring genuine hopes of promotion after a fine run of form that has seen them win their last four games.
“The management team have done a fantastic job there,” said Ward. “They are working on a budget that reflects crowds of less than 3,000, so their recruitment policy has been really good.
“They are a confident side at the moment and when you feel like that you think anything is possible. They will now believing that they can get in the top three with 12 games left to play, but that puts a different sort of pressure on them.
“Many people may not have expected them to be in the running to be in the top three at the end of the season, but they will be now. It is up to them how they deal with it, but it will be our job to try and put a dent in it for them on Saturday.”