Ward on New Year's Day fixture and more
It’s been a physically demanding schedule for Rovers and, indeed, for all clubs in the Football League.
After playing three games in eight days, John Ward’s side can now look forward to two more in the next four days beginning with tomorrow’s visit of Cheltenham Town to the Memorial Stadium.
For managers, it’s a case of getting the balance right between work and rest and, as Ward says, everyone has a different way of approaching periods like this.
“You have to try to get it right for all parties,” said the manager at this morning’s press conference. “I have to say, though, that there is no right or wrong way of going about it. You just try to keep your players as
fresh and as fit as possible.
“We have a similar sized squad to most teams at our level, and you have to try to give them the right amount of rest time as well as playing and training time.”
Rovers and Cheltenham suffered defeats on Sunday, so both will be looking to bounce back tomorrow.
“We are at home, and we have done well at the Memorial Stadium recently.
“It’s where we have picked up most of our points this season but we know it will be a tough game, just as it was at their place not so long ago.
“It was a good contest though, tactically, I think we got things right on the night. They shaded the first half while we came back at them after the break and it was a pretty tight affair.
“I expect that to be very similar again tomorrow and not too dissimilar to Sunday’s game at Rochdale when we played well in the first half but couldn’t score, while they played well after the break and managed to get in front.
“This league seems to be like that a little bit, where everyone can give everyone else a game and no team is running away at the top of the league.
“Tomorrow’s game may well hinge on one passage of play or one individual who can find something special as happened in our last home game, when two very good finishes enabled us to beat Portsmouth.”
Ward added that both team spirit and fitness levels were good ahead of the clash against our Gloucestershire neighbours.
“Team spirit is good, and the players are giving everything they possibly can.
“As far as fitness levels are concerned my staff are great and we discuss, each day, what we are going to do, how we are going to do it, and what’s required.
“The mood in the camp is that the players want to be out there even though we are going through a tough time. We have a really good positive approach from people who want to be out there and being considered for selection.”
The manager also confirmed that he will have the same squad available to him as he did for Sunday’s game at Rochdale.
He may well bring someone in during January, but we are unlikely to see a new face ahead of the FA Cup tie against Crawly Town this Saturday.
“We have not really put our minds to the transfer window at the moment, as we have had to put all of our time and effort into Christmas period, which has been pretty congested.
“We have made a point of getting this Saturday’s FA Cup tie out of the way as well and we will see what happens after that.
“As you can imagine we are pretty much inundated with information from agents and players but I haven’t made any major decisions on what we need to do at this moment in time.
“However, there is no hiding from the fact that we have to improve our goals tally and that’s there for everyone to see.
“There are goals in the side, though, with David Clarkson Matt Harrold, Eliot Richards and John-Joe O’Toole capable of finding the back of the net.
“It may be a question of getting one or two of them scoring on a more regular basis, but I think it’s a problem a number of teams are experiencing.
“The players who can find you the goals are absolutely priceless, so we may have to work with what we have and try to improve things ourselves.”
The full press interview with John is now available on Gas Player