Bristol Rovers boss John Ward satisfied to start with a point
New Bristol Rovers boss John Ward praised his players for their attitude and application after ending his first game in charge with a point at fellow relegation strugglers Aldershot Town.
Striker Eliot Richards stepped off the bench to plunder an 86th minute equaliser as Rovers came from behind twice to secure a 2-2 draw at the Recreation Ground.
The Pirates had gone behind to a Michael Hector opener in the 33rd minute – but were back on terms when David Clarkson equalised from the penalty spot soon after half-time.
Aldershot restored their advantage when Craig Reid tucked away a spot kick in the 75th minute after Garry Kenneth was adjudged to have fouled defender Sonny Bradley before Richards' deflected shot helped Rovers claim what could be a crucial point.
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Rovers remain bottom of League Two and three points below the safety zone following Barnet's surprise 1-0 victory at Gillingham, but Ward said: "I was really pleased with the point and the performance in general.
"It was particularly pleasing that the boys never gave up before we got the second equaliser with only a few minutes remaining.
"It showed me they have a bit of character about them and a good attitude. That is very important because I know they can play. They are in the professional game because they have proved they can play, but that is of little help if the attitudes are not spot-on.
"I think we saw the players dig in for that point and the reaction from the supporters at the end showed that they appreciated the fact that our lads played with their hearts on their sleeves.
"The team had a really good go, but it is important that they maintain that sort of desire over the coming weeks and months."
The game was a scrappy affair played in treacherous conditions following a torrential downpour shortly before kick-off and Ward added: "The referee was concerned about the condition of the pitch before the game because there was a lot of rain about, so it was never going to be a great spectacle.
"I'm not worried that it wasn't particularly pretty, because the most important thing for us was to get something out of the game.
"Every point is crucial when you are bottom of the league. We had no points with five minutes left, so we have to be happy to have got something from the game at that late stage."
Ward expects to be busy in the upcoming transfer window with a host of players leaving the club at the end of the month. On-loan youngsters Tom Eaves (Bolton) and Matt Lund (Stoke) are both to return to their parent clubs after Saturday's game at Cheltenham, while goalkeeper Sam Walker plays his last game before returning to Chelsea when Plymouth come to the Memorial Stadium on New Year's Day.
Ward, however, has already made moves to try and keep on-loan Leicester defender Cian Bolger at the Memorial Stadium until the end of the season after he played his first game in three months following recovery from a recent knee injury.
Bolger, who is currently scheduled to return to Leicester after the Plymouth game on January 1, said: "The gaffer has spoken to me about extending the loan spell, but there is nothing concrete as yet.
"I'd love to stay on and play some games because my season has only really started again today. We'll see what happens."
He added: "I'm just pleased to be back. The pitch took a bit out of everyone, but I enjoyed it and we were pleased with a point."
Clarkson, meanwhile, is doubtful for Saturday's trip to Cheltenham after taking a blow to the ankle, which forced his withdrawal in the 71st minute. Ward, however, is more hopeful that Jim Paterson will recover from the hamstring complaint that forced him off early in the first-half.