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Ward: We Showed Togetherness and Belief Despite Not Being at Our Best
Monday, 2nd Nov 2020 11:55

Stephen Ward and his Town colleagues are not hiding away from the fact that despite the narrow home win over Crewe on Saturday coincided with a display that was well below their best this season.

But the veteran defender has been in the game long enough to know that it is not always possible to turn on the style for each and every win, and that there are times when the end result matters more than anything else.

Ward, 35, said: “We all know the first half on Saturday wasn’t good enough but we improved in the second half and got the win. We all want to win playing attractive football but there are going to be times — especially after three games in the space of a week — when it isn’t going to go as planned.

“You have to dig in and be resolute, and take the points where you can. I thought we showed a real appetite for that on Saturday and it was one of those results — clean sheet, 1-0 win and backs against the wall in the first half.

“We showed that togetherness and the inner belief that we could win it despite not being at our best. It was pleasing in that sense.”

The Town players, to a man, were delighted that Oli Hawkins popped up to nod in his first goal for the club since arriving in the summer after his release by Portsmouth. Such is the giant striker’s popularity within the ranks that all his team-mates were genuinely thrilled for him.

Asked if he saw Hawkins posing a regular goal threat throughout the remainder of the season, former Republic of Ireland international defender Ward added: “Hopefully he can and you could see how delighted we were for him on Saturday when he worked really hard. He hadn’t had much luck in front of goal in some of the previous games.

“It was against Rochdale, wasn’t it, when there were a couple of world-class saves from the goalie and he also hit the post? There have been several near misses here and there as well. He was just desperate for one to go in. Oli’s always a threat, like when the ball comes into the box, and he holds it up well.

“He had been close to getting that first goal for the club in a number of games and thankfully it came on Saturday, which was great for him and for us because it got us the three points. Hopefully he can kick on from there.”

The Town players were also grateful to giant goalkeeper Tomas Holy, who was a near-unanimous choice as man of the match after making a string of super saves to foil an enterprising Crewe side, especially in a first half dominated by the visitors.

Ward continued: “Tomas’s performance was fantastic and it gives us massive confidence to know that we have a keeper like him behind us. Games aren’t always going to go exactly as you’d planned and we have to remember we are playing against some good, strong teams who are going to create chances.

“This is a very, very competitive league and when you’ve got a keeper like Tomas to make the saves he did on Saturday it gives the back four a lot of confidence.

“We’ve really tried to keep chances down to a minimum this year by being resolute in our defending and with an eye on playing out from the back we also need to keep it very tight. I feel we have done that and on Saturday, when we needed him, Tomas was absolutely brilliant for us.”

Ward also had praise for young central defenders Luke Woolfenden and Mark McGuinness, the Arsenal loanee whose display again belied his 19 years. The pair carried on from where they left off last Tuesday in the 1-0 home win over Gillingham with another wholehearted 90 minutes in which they made a number of key blocks.

“We’re very blessed with the quality of the centre-backs we have in the squad,” said Ward. “The two lads [Nsiala and Wilson] who started the season did outstandingly well and now the young guys have come in to freshen it up a bit.

“Mark has been great and he’s a really good young pro who is willing to learn and has a great appetite for the game. He’s come in from Arsenal and he wants to learn and play football. He is looking to grow as a player and he has done really well in his first two games for us. It’s been a great start for him and we’re happy for him.”

Ward has played most of his career in the top two divisions with Wolves, Burnley and Stoke, so what does he make of League One this season? He said: “It’s very competitive and a lot tougher than a lot of people think. There’s a lot of freedom in the way teams want to play, looking to play out and be expansive, so it’s a real test.

“At the minute I feel we are finding games to be competitive and after 10 games I can see the league starting to take shape a bit, although you can’t rest on your laurels because the games come so thick and fast. After a couple of defeats on the trot, where we felt we were a bit unlucky, we’ve bounced back strongly and now need to take each game as it comes.

“Overall, I would say League One is very competitive, very tough and the standard of football is higher than a lot of people might have expected. You only have to look at Crewe on Saturday. The way they played was as good as you will see in the higher divisions, the way they moved and passed the ball.

“We’re up against different tests every week and I’m enjoying the challenge. As a squad and as a team we are all up for it and we want to be competing at the top of the league. Promotion has always been the target.”

Photo: Matchday Images

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bluelodgeblue added 13:23 - Nov 2
What it showed was that we're just not good enough, too many players go missing too often and Lambert motivation skills leave a lot to be desired?

WhoisJimmyJuan added 15:28 - Nov 2
Yes and weren't Crew also playing the same number of games? Yet they turned in some great play. We did well to dig in for the win but we still want individual players to be on their game more regularly and reliably.

Suffolkboy added 17:19 - Nov 2
Measured and savvy comments from one who knows the game inside out : take every note of what he has to say ,and note how balanced and measured he is .

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