We handled the occasion well, says delighted Bristol Rovers manager John Ward
BRISTOL Rovers boss John Ward has praised his players for rising to the occasion to make sure their battle for survival received a further boost at the Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
Striker Ryan Brunt scored an injury-time winner to secure a 2-1 victory over Barnet, which moved Rovers out of the relegation zone for the first time since December 8, in front of the biggest crowd (8,527) at the Memorial Stadium for a league fixture since May 2010.
Ward, pictured, who has seen his side win four out of six games since he took charge, had voiced concerns over how his side would react to heightened expectancy following impressive victories at Fleetwood Town and Rotherham United in recent weeks, but he said: "I'm learning more about the players with every game and the big thing for me on Friday night was the manner in which we won the game.
"There was certainly a lot less pressure in the two games we won away at Fleetwood and Rotherham because the expectancy to win wasn't there.
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"We had to deal with a big crowd at home on Friday night, which was probably expecting us to win the game 3-0 because of the results we had got in our previous two games.
"That made it the toughest game of the three. Barnet are a good side that played some good football and in a way we had to play in a similar way to how we would if we were away from home.
"It was a disciplined effort and the players dealt with the situation very well even when a bit of nervousness crept in when we were still goalless after 70 minutes."
He added: "To get over 8,500 in the ground was fantastic. We have engaged a bit of supporter interest again and that is great for us. The nature of getting good results, however, is that an expectation naturally follows and that is something the players will have to learn to deal with if we are to go on and be successful.
"I think the atmosphere was great and we want to continue playing in a way that will help us get that sort of partisan crowd every time we play at home.
"I just hope our supporters are feeling that we are trying our best to display the same passion as they do every time they come to see us play.
"Sometimes players can be accused of not showing that, but I don't think that can be thrown at this group. I think supporters will accept a defeat every now and then as long as they have seen the players put in the effort and show some desire to try to win games."
Rovers continue their survival bid with when they go to Cheltenham Town tomorrow night (7.45pm) and Ward added: "It is an important month because there are so many games to come.
"I'm not looking any further ahead than next week, however, because we have two difficult away games against teams who both have realistic ambitions to be involved in the promotion shake-up.
"We are in good shape going into the games, but we must not forget how hard we have worked to get our last three results. There is nobody going off on holiday for three days because we've won three games on the bounce.
"We were all back at work on Saturday morning to begin our preparations for the Cheltenham game.
"It is important we keep the players grounded and focused on what are difficult games to come."