Bristol Rovers boss John Ward talks of incentives ahead of Exeter City clash
Bristol Rovers boss John Ward has urged his players to use the opportunity to move a step closer to guaranteed survival as an incentive to overcome in-form Exeter City at the Memorial Stadium tomorrow night.
Ward watched his side move up to 17th position in League Two - their highest of the season so far - following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Burton Albion at the Memorial Stadium on Saturday and could see his players make further progress upwards if they could claim a victory over Paul Tisdale's promotion-chasing side.
They could also move to within five points of the 50-point mark generally considered to be the threshold at which any relegation fears would be finally banished and Ward said: “We could improve our league position again so that is another incentive for us.
“I’m happy to look above us and to see where we can go next, but, more importantly we have the chance to improve our points total.
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“Exeter will be favourites because of their league position, but we want to give them a tough evening. It will be a difficult game, but we have dealt well with teams at the top of our league.
“The mood of the players has been good anyway, but particularly so after a 3-0 win on Saturday, which has been the biggest (margin of victory in a game) since I got here.
“In the last four or five games we have been a little bit more positive in our approach to the games in that we have decided to go with two up front. We have made our play slightly more open and we have reaped some benefits from that.”
Tisdale’s side, meanwhile, arrive at the Memorial Stadium in good form after recovering from a lethargic start to the campaign to put themselves right in the promotion mix.
“Exeter deserve some credit for staying behind Paul and sticking with him at a time when knee-jerk reactions in terms of managerial changes are common,” said Ward.
“They were relegated last year, but he has built a team that is ready to go back up and start all over again. The disappointment of relegation hasn’t lingered long at that football club and things have been revitalised very quickly.
“Paul has been there a long while and is a good young man that I worked with during my time at Bristol City. There is a lot of connections between the two clubs and it will be nice to see a few friendly faces. For 90 minutes, however, we will be going all out to try and beat each other.”
Ward, meanwhile, is expected to be without wideman Joe Anyinsah (hamstring), but is set to welcome Fabian Broghammer back into the squad following a three-game absence.
“We have struggled in terms of numbers at times, but at the moment we are fine and have some competition for places,” said Ward.
“If we keep working as hard as we have been doing, then we also have a competitive nature about the group to give Exeter a very difficult evening.”