Ward brings optimism and hope aplenty
There can't be a football club in the country more in need of the new-found optimism and desire for change that arrives with the coming of a new year than Bristol Rovers.
The year of 2012 will go down as an annus horibilis at the Memorial Stadium; one to be confined to the annals of history and best forgotten.
The start of it signalled the end of Paul Buckle's turbulent reign and was followed by the early promise injected by the arrival of Mark McGhee. The latter part, however, saw that optimism quickly turn to pessimism before McGhee's reign ended in almost shambolic circumstances, which contributed to Rovers 'celebrating' Christmas at the bottom of League Two and fearing for their Football League existence.
Enter John Ward, however, and the renewal of hope and optimism. The manager has made a promising start – a hard-fought draw at Aldershot on Boxing Day followed by this victory over a fellow relegation strugglers in the shape of Plymouth Argyle.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
A first win in almost two months in front of a healthy 7,000-plus inside the Memorial Stadium was enough to ensure a positive beginning.
The performance was certainly nothing to write home about. Dogged in defence and effectiveness at set-pieces were the ingredients that won the day – while the three new additions Ward made to his squad on Monday all made positive contributions.
Much work, however, remains to be done on the training pitch as well as in the transfer market before Rovers supporters are able to sit comfortably.
Ward, at least, will be boosted by the fact that he claimed his first victory in front of a Memorial Stadium crowd that exuded hope when welcoming their new manager for the first time.
Early first-half goals from Joe Anyinsah and Matt Lund provided the the catalyst for a victory that moves Rovers to within one point of safety ahead of what will certainly be a much sterner test of their credentials when league leaders Gillingham arrive on Saturday.
Anyinsah pounced to fire high into the net from close-range after Plymouth goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin failed to get sufficient purchase on an effort to clear a Fabian Broghammer corner in the 19th minute.
Six minutes later, Rovers profited from a set-piece situation for a second time when Lund was the beneficiary of another corner perfectly delivered by Broghammer, which allowed the on-loan Stoke City midfielder to execute a powerful volley and double the advantage.
Plymouth returned with greater purpose after the break and managed to register their first attempt on target – even if debutant Rovers goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall was able to casually pluck the attempt out of the air.
It served as a warning sign, however, that Plymouth were likely to be much sterner opponents for the remainder of the game than they had been during a pretty woeful opening 45 minutes. And so it proved.
They reduced the deficit when skipper Conor Hourihane took advantage of some slack defending to angle a side-foot volley past Mildenhall on the hour mark after he had been picked out at the far post by Argyle right-back Durrell Berry.
Plymouth were unlucky not to level the scores a few minutes later when Hourihane saw the ball rattle back off the post following a delicately curled effort from the edge of the penalty area.
Ward tightened things up for the final 20 minutes by introducing the combative Seanan Clucas in place of Oliver Norburn to ensure that Plymouth did not make the sort of comeback that possibly would have offered their manager, Carl Fletcher, who was sacked at the final whistle, a reprieve.
Rovers new boy John-Joe O'Toole, meanwhile, claimed a man-of-the-match bottle of champagne after showing flashes of good play. Mildenhall could do little about Argyle's goal – but should prove an astute signing.
Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall, Smith, Parkes, Bolger, Lee Brown, Lund, Norburn (Clucas 73), Anyinsah (Harding 90), Broghammer (Richards 77), O'Toole, Hitchcock. Subs Not Used: Gough, Harrison, Lockyer, Santos.
Goals: Anyinsah 19, Lund 25.
Plymouth: Gilmartin, Blanchard, Berry, Bhasera, Nelson, Williams (Lennox 75), Hourihane, Young (Molesley 84), Cowan-Hall, Chadwick, Feeney (Rhys Griffiths 78). Subs Not Used: Cole, Wotton, Lowry, Lecointe.
Booked: Berry, Hourihane.
Goals: Hourihane 62.
Referee: Mark Heywood (Cheshire).