Ward: We Have to Be Really Positive and Believe We Can Make Play-Offs
Monday, 19th Apr 2021 10:40
Town veteran Stephen Ward insists that he and his colleagues must remain positive going into the final five games of the season because there is still a lot at stake for the club.
Four points is all that separates the Blues from the League One play-offs and Republic of Ireland international Ward remains confident they can claim a top-six slot, despite a run of just two wins from the 11 games since manager Paul Cook took charge.
Left-back Ward, 35, said: “It will hurt everyone if we don’t win promotion because this is a club that wants to get promoted. We understand that more than anyone. It has been a tough year, both off and on the pitch, for everyone and for every team.
“Other than probably the two teams who go up automatically, I think most teams will have had dips here and there, plus injuries, and it has been difficult with the amount of games. Everyone has been in the same boat.
“Yes, I came here to try to help the team get promoted and I still believe we can. I feel we have enough in the dressing room to get into the play-offs.
“Hopefully it’s going to go down to the wire and we need to stay in touch right down to the last day of the season.
“Tomorrow night’s game at Northampton is huge and we need to go there and get a positive win. Then, hopefully, come back to Portman Road and be ready to go again on Saturday against Wimbledon.”
Nobody needs reminding how Town fared at Wimbledon last midweek, losing 3-0, but there was an upturn in their display in holding Charlton, another team looking to secure a play-off place, to a goalless draw at The Valley at the weekend.
Ward added: “We were disappointed not to win after the performance on Saturday. We knew we needed a reaction after Tuesday night – that was obviously a tough night – because everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.
“It was important that we showed a reaction, firstly as players in terms of our performance, and I thought we did that. I thought we played well on Saturday and were unlucky not to win the game. In the end we’re probably disappointed we didn’t take all three points.”
Town have failed to score in any of their last four games – and six of their last eight – but on the plus side they have kept four clean sheets. So, despite the obvious lack of a goal threat that has seen Cook’s men average a goal per game over the course of the season, bizarrely the very same ratio applies to goals conceded.
“We were especially disappointed at Wimbledon to concede from a set piece because other than that, except maybe against Portsmouth, we’ve been really solid in that area,” Ward continued.
“The clean sheets not only come from us and we can see a lot of the work that goes on ahead of us a lot of the time, like the press we have from the top end of the pitch and in the middle third as well.
“Of course we’re happy with the clean sheets and hopefully it’s a foundation that we can build on. Hopefully, in the coming weeks and the next five games, we can start putting the ball away. That will give us a nice balance and hopefully bring some positive results.”
Ward admitted he is disappointed not to have contributed at least one goal to the cause and added: “I probably haven’t had too many chances if I’m being honest but we know we need to have goals coming from all areas of the pitch. We need to create more and we can’t just rely solely on the centre-forwards.
“We’re all disappointed that we haven’t dug in more and scored more goals but we are working hard at it. Sometimes it can be a confidence thing when we’ve not scored as many as we’ve wanted.
“We can sometimes try too hard to create that chance and get the goal, so we maybe just need to relax and get back to the basics. Hopefully it will be the case that when one goes in it will open a door.”
Does he believe anything less than six points from tomorrow’s visit to Sixfields and the home clash with Wimbledon at the weekend is likely to finally end their play-off hopes? He said: “Listen, that’s what we want but we’re not looking any further than tomorrow night. We know we have to win that one.
“It has been a tough season, a tough few months for everyone, and we’re still right in there. We have to be really positive and believe we can get in the play-offs, and then do something in the play-offs. First and foremost that starts tomorrow night.
“If we can get a win away at Northampton it sets us up for a home game that we will look to go and win. It’s a massive week in our season and we believe that if we get two positive results we will be right in and around it come the last three games of the season.”
Town’s automatic promotion hopes realistically ended several weeks ago and it seems the current top two, Hull and Peterborough, are well placed to stay there for the remainder of the campaign, especially since Sunderland are eight points adrift in third.
Ward was asked about the difference between the top two and Town, to which he replied: “It’s difficult to say really because when we played them I don’t think there was that much between the teams. I think it’s the same with a lot of the teams up there.
“Sometimes, when teams have got on a good winning run, they have been able to keep them going longer than we have. We’ve probably dipped in and out of winning games, getting back-to-back wins and then not picking up such positive results.
“Sometimes in this league, when you’re winning and you keep winning it’s a lot easier to keep going. But when that stops and you lose one or two it can be difficult to get back on that run. They’ve probably done that better than other teams.
“It’s a credit to them that they are where are for a reason and we’re where we are, knowing we have to work hard to get into those play-offs. We’ve got to be positive. I’ve been in dressing rooms throughout my career where I’ve missed the play-offs on the last day and on other occasions I’ve qualified for the play-offs on the last day.
“There’s plenty to play for – there’s still 15 points out there that are up for grabs – and we’ve got to start by getting three points tomorrow night.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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