Bristol Rovers: John Ward pleased with defensive improvement

Bristol Rovers manager John Ward has praised the defensive improvement of his side after they picked of the first win of his tenure.

The 2-1 win over Plymouth moved the Pirates within a point of 22nd placed Barnet at the bottom of League Two.

"In the second-half there is a 20 minute spell where we've got to dig in, and not hang on, but defend," he said.

I asked the players to play as supporters would consider they would play, to give it everything

John Ward

"I think it has helped when we've had training days where we've had to defend as a strong unit."

Ward has already spoke about moving back to the Memorial Stadium as the toughest job of his career after he replaced Mark McGhee in December.

With only three points separating the bottom five teams, Rovers have the joint-worst goal difference in the league and it is the first area of improvement Ward targeted.

"When I first came in and looked at it I think [goal difference] was something like minus 20, so it's quite obvious what you've got do," he told BBC Points West.

"It came together [against Plymouth], there were a few scary moments but it's a football match.

Pirates' daunting January

  • 5 January - Gillingham (1st)
  • 12 January - Fleetwood (6th)
  • 19 January - Exeter (9th)
  • 26 January - Rotherham (3rd)

*Fixtures in bold at home

"I asked the players to play as supporters would consider they would play, to give it everything."

The former Colchester manager has already brought in three players since he arrived and has spoken about further signings in January.

Goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall, 34, QPR forward Tom Hitchcock, 20, and Colchester midfielder John-Joe O'Toole, 24 arrived on one-month loan deals, with Mildenhill and O'Toole making their debuts against Plymouth.

"I knew I'd got a senior goalkeeper coming in Steve Mildenhall, he played for Scunthorpe on Saturday so he's up to speed with his football," Ward added.

"John-Joe O'Toole when he was 18 or 19 was playing in Watford's first-team but has lost his way a little bit, but what you've seen is what he does.

"He's strong, he's a battler, a fighter and he had a couple of shots at goal."