LEROY ROSENIOR: Bristol City's new-found team spirit has been clear under Sean O'Driscoll
I DON'T like using this term 'six-pointer', so all I'm going to say is that Bristol City's clash with Barnsley at Ashton Gate tomorrow is a massive game for Sean O'Driscoll and all of his players.
It is amazing how often you see the appointment of a new manager turn previously struggling players into world-beaters and that seems to be what has happened at Barnsley in the last few weeks.
David Flitcroft seems only to have tweaked a few things here and there since taking over from Keith Hill to inspire an unbeaten run of six games that has given them a real chance of saving themselves only weeks on from looking dead and buried.
City's decision to change their manager, meanwhile, has not served to bring about such a notable improvement in results, but the arrival of Sean has definitely brought about an improvement in the quality of performance.
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OK, City have dropped back to the foot of the table following back-to-back defeats at the hands of Cardiff City and Crystal Palace, but, let's be honest, neither result came as much of a surprise to anyone.
What was important for Sean to take away from those two games were some positives from the performances. After hearing him interviewed after the defeat at Selhurst Park, it was pleasing to note that Sean made reference to the attitude and application his players had shown in both games against two sides who both have realistic ambitions of playing in the Premier League next season.
Sometimes when you hear a manager say things like this after a game, you're often left to wonder whether they actually believe what they say or are using their words as some sort of psychological device to try and keep the feeling around the camp as positive as possible in a difficult situation.
I'm not sure that Sean works that way at all. He says what he sees and won't dabble in any false platitudes to protect the players if he feels they haven't put in a shift. If he says there were positives to take from the game, then there would have been. Sean won't be kidding anybody on.
The pleasing thing for City supporters to see is that the players are not dropping their heads when they go a goal down as there was always that worry in the past that they may capitulate in those situations in the past.
If City can continue to improve that defensive foundation and start getting a foothold in the games coming up, then the signing of Brian Howard should offer that bit of creativity that was perhaps lacking, while the return of Albert Adomah is like a new signing in itself for Sean.
Back-to-back defeats means City's survival prospects are touch and go with games running out – but that's not really any different to how things have been for the majority of the season.
Six points is a fair gap to make up, but there is still plenty of hope for City as lots and lots of teams are struggling for form in what is turning into a very unpredictable battle for Championship survival.
A victory against Barnsley on Saturday would move City on to 34 points, which would make for better viewing of the league table on Sunday morning – even if Sean claims he doesn't ever look at it!
Rovers boss John Ward, meanwhile, is one manager who certainly does look at the league table and will definitely have liked what he has seen when viewing it over recent weeks.
A sensational six-game unbeaten run had to come to an end some time and I wasn't surprised to hear that John wasn't too disheartened, if a little disappointed, to lose to Rotherham United at the Memorial Stadium on Tuesday night.
There could be no complaints about the endeavour Rovers showed in their performance and this result is a minor setback when you consider the way the players have responded since John arrived to take charge.
I think the fact that those inside the Rovers camp were so disappointed to lose the game against a side in with a real shout of automatic promotion shows just how far they have come in a short space of time under John.
Had Rovers conceded two second-half goals within the space of three second-half minutes in a game earlier in the season you wouldn't have been surprised if they completely folded to let in fours and fives – that is if they had managed to keep a clean sheet for an hour in the first place!
On Tuesday night, this new and improved Rovers gave Rotherham one hell of a game and I think teams are coming to the Memorial Stadium now with a bit more respect for the more-organised outfit that John has made them.
The supporters are playing their part, too, and never fail to receive a mention from John in his post-match musings. They understand what John is doing and will be prepared to accept the odd defeat here and there as long as the players maintain the level of endeavour and hard work they are showing.