These boys are getting tougher and tougher, says Bristol Rovers boss John Ward
Bristol Rovers boss John Ward says he is seeing an increasing resilience throughout his side after watching them recover from the worst possible start to claim a point at in-form Morecambe on Saturday.
Ward watched his side's bid to bounce back from defeat at the hands of Rotherham United last Tuesday suffer an early setback after conceding a goal inside two minutes off the boot of Jack Redsdhaw.
The manager, however, was delighted with how his players showed 'character' to respond in a positive manner to claim a point following Eliot Richards' 48th minute equaliser.
He said: "It is always important to avoid back-to-back defeats when you are in our position. Every point is a bonus and I was delighted with the response from my team. It was a test of character particularly after losing players through injury and then conceding a very early goal.
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"When you concede a goal inside two minutes after losing your last game, you do worry that heads could drop. The important thing for me though, was how the players reacted to it.
"That they recovered from that setback was probably the best thing about the performance. We conceded a second goal too quickly after letting in the first against Rotherham on Tuesday night, but I think we showed today that we learned from that.
"Morecambe have only lost one in their last six and had just won away at Port Vale so anything we got was a bonus for us. In terms of this team growing as part of a collective, I can see they are getting better and learning all the time about each other and the game itself. The players here are starting to toughen up in all aspects both mentally and physically, so I'm pleased with that alone."
Ward, meanwhile, was forced to hand young strike pairing Eliot Richards and Tom Hitchcock rare starts after Ryan Brunt, Fabian Broghammer and David Clarkson all failed to make the trip.
The injured trio will be assessed ahead of Tuesday night's trip to Northampton Town – but Ward says he'll have no qualms about using the youngsters again despite seeing them both fail to convert good one-on-one chances after the break.
"It's not easy to score those sometimes," said Ward. "They both had a long way to go to the goal and there is a lot of thinking time in those situations.
"They are good young players learning the game and I think they both have a little bit of mental strength about themselves. I wasn't concerned about putting them in because they had done well for me at Fleetwood a month ago.
"Playing two up front leaves us slightly more open as a team, but I felt they both did really well again. I'm pleased Eliot got a goal. He showed good movement to get across the defender and it will give him a lot of confidence."
Midfielder Seanan Clucas, meanwhile, was the latest player to be added to the injury list after taking a blow to the knee, which saw him taken off on a stretcher four minutes from time, leaving him doubtful for involvement at Sixfields on Tuesday night.