Bristol Rovers boss John Ward sets sights on further improvement
Bristol Rovers boss John Ward has told his rapidly-improving players that claiming a place in the top half of the League Two table should be their next realistic target.
Rovers entertain Rochdale at the Memorial Stadium this weekend on the back of an impressive run of form that has moved the side to within touching distance of guaranteed safety.
Ward, however, says that the players must work hard to maintain their current form and when asked if moving into the safety of mid-table over the next couple of weeks is a realistic ambition, he replied: “I think it is.”
He added: “We are within touching distance of the three or four teams above us and catching them now has to be the next aim.
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“If we can do that over the next couple of games we can look again and see whether we can push on that little bit further again.
“The players have done very well, but I will keep saying to them and everyone else that I don’t want it to stop there.
“We have games left to complete and we need to try and finish as high up the table as we can. We have probably improved things beyond expectations since I arrived, but we have to maintain that.”
Rovers will pass the 50-point mark if they manage to equal their best run of home form for three-and-a-half years by securing what would be a fourth successive victory at the Memorial Stadium tomorrow.
“We have been playing well at home lately,” said Ward. “When you win games there is a change in that people will come with a greater expectancy.
“The players have done very well to deal with that so far and they and the crowd are very much together. I have to admit that 50 points looked a long way off when we were on our way to Aldershot with a threadbare squad on Boxing Day.
“If you told me that we would be where we are by this stage, I don’t think I would have been even close to believing it.”
Keith Hill’s Rochdale, however, could climb above Rovers if they were to claim what would be a seventh away victory of the campaign and Ward said: “I think they have restructured their football club recently and have a good management team on board.
“They are in good hands and I know that they will be organised and hard to beat, so we will have to be patient with our football to get the result we want.”
Rovers are likely to be without midfielder Oliver Norburn (ankle), but Mark McChrystal is expected to return after missing Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory over Port Vale.
Defender Clayton McDonald is also available again, but both Joe Anyinsah and Fabian Broghammer are struggling with hamstring complaints.
Ward, meanwhile, has invited highly-rated Yate Town striker Scott Wilson to train with the club next week as he sets about the task of making plans for next season.
A number of players are also out of contract in the summer and Ward said: “We have to plan ahead and we have to plan positively.
“I sat down with the chairman (Nick Higgs) and (finance director) Toni Watola last week and there are conversations going on all the time.
He added: “We are going to have a little look at Scott. He’s on our doorstep and we have the opportunity to do it. We’ve had good reports on him so we’ll take the chance to see how he does in comparison to the boys we have here at the moment.”