Skip to main content Skip to site footer
League Two

Bristol Rovers midfielder John-Joe O'Toole praised by boss John Ward

8 February 2014

John Ward heaped praise on John-Joe O'Toole after the midfielder's 12th goal of the season rescued a 1-1 draw against high-flying Oxford United.

O'Toole got forward to head home a Lee Brown free-kick after 84 minutes, even though he had been told to adopt a deeper role following the introduction of new striker Steven Gillespie off the bench.

Ward said: "John-Joe was asked to play several different positions over the 90 minutes so I was pleased when he received the supporters' vote as man of the match.

"I wanted Steven Gillespie to get into forward positions, which meant John-Joe had to curb his attacking instincts.

"But he makes a habit of getting into good scoring positions and we managed to find him with a quality delivery.

"Our heads could have dropped in tough conditions against a very good side, but we are strong as a group and that mentality will see us through."

Oxford caretaker boss Mickey Lewis was upset that his side could not hold on to a 10th minute lead given to them by James Constable.

The striker netted with a quality volley when Deane Smalley chested a Dave Kitson cross into his path 12 yards out.

Lewis said: "We looked pretty comfortable for most of the game and had good chances to increase the lead, so I'm disappointed in that respect.

"James hadn't scored for a few games but we know he is a quality finisher and he got on the end of a very good move.

"We should have seen the game out but we started giving away too many free-kicks and putting ourselves under pressure.

"Even so, a point away at Bristol Rovers is still pleasing because they have some very good players and an excellent manager."

Josh Ruffels wasted the best chance to double Oxford's lead when he blazed over just prior to the hour mark after the dangerous Constable had laid on a clear opening.

Tom Lockyer forced a good second-half save from goalkeeper Ryan Clarke as both sides did their best to overcome a strong wind and tricky playing surface.

Rovers had the ball in the net after 31 minutes when Kaid Mohamed's header was deflected in by O'Toole, whose celebrations were cut short by a linesman's flag for offside.

And the home side nearly won it at the close when an injury-time shot from Brown grazed a post.

Both teams had to contend with a fierce wind and a tricky playing surface, which made ball control and accurate passing very difficult.

Ward paraded two new signings in Gillespie and Alan Gow, the latter signed in a loan swap deal until the end of the season which saw Eliot Richards move to Exeter.

Advertisement block