PREVIEW: Rovers vs Wycombe Wanderers
BRISTOL Rovers defender Michael Smith says the last two months have been the most enjoyable of his short career.
Smith, 24, arrived at the Memorial Stadium in the summer of 2010 as part of a much-changed squad assembled by former manager Paul Buckle that was expected to return the club to League One at the first time of asking following relegation.
Things, however, failed to unfold as hoped and Smith has had to endure more downs than ups during 18 months at the club prior to the arrival of John Ward in December.
Since then, Smith has been an ever-present in a side that has lost just once in eight games to ease the prospect of relegation, and he said: "I've not had a better time at Bristol Rovers since I've been here.
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"We've had a great couple of months and we have to keep working hard to try to keep it going.
"I feel like I have come a long way in the time I have been here, but even more since the new gaffer has come in to instil new life in me. He's put faith in me and I hope I am repaying him for that at the moment."
Rovers' remarkable revival was recognised earlier this week when Ward was among the nominees for the League Two manager-of-the-month award following a run of three wins from four games.
"The gaffer's approach has been spot-on since the first day he came in," said Smith, pictured.
"He told us that the most important thing was attitude and if we got that right, we'd get out of the relegation zone.
"Training has been good and to get points and wins away from home has been a big boost for everyone and has helped our confidence to grow with each game."
Rovers will be looking to extend their unbeaten sequence to six matches when they host Wycombe Wanderers at the Memorial Stadium tomorrow.
The combination of a victory and results going their way elsewhere would see Rovers move out of the bottom six for the first time this season, and Smith added: "I hope we can keep this sort of form going until the end of the season.
"I don't want to make predictions, but we are simply doing our best to try to get as high up the table as we can. A few teams above us are starting to stutter, so our next aim is to try to catch them.
"We have done well over the last couple of months, but we are still down there and we can't start talking about being safe yet."
Ward is hoping to see a similar turnout at the Memorial Stadium for tomorrow's game as the 8,500 that turned up to cheer the team to victory over Barnet in their last engagement on home soil.
"It would be terrific," said Ward. "The amount of people that turned up for the Barnet game surprised a few of us.
"We need the same sort of encouragement again on Saturday. It is important for us then to respond to that as a team in the right way."