CALVIN Zola has praised the spirit and work ethic of his Burton Albion team-mates for helping him get back on the goal trail, writes GLENN BROOKES.
Zola, left, bagged his first goal in almost a month with an 81st minute header which proved enough to wrap up the points for the Brewers on Saturday as they finally got the better of a Bradford City team who had been reduced to 10 men since the 31st minute sending off of skipper Ricky Ravenhill for head-butting Albion midfielder Lee Bell.
With Albion growing increasingly frustrated at their failure to break down the Bantams at the Pirelli Stadium, the 6ft 3ins striker stooped to plant a diving header wide of goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin after left-back Damien McCrory had shown terrific persistency to get in a cross.
The goal saw Albion return to winning ways after Tuesday night’s 1-1 home draw with Port Vale and the 4-1 defeat at leaders Gillingham the previous weekend.
It was also Zola’s first goal since the 3-3 home draw with Northampton Town at the end of October — a game in which he picked up a hamstring/back problem which ruled him out for a three-game spell.
The 27-year-old admits he is not 100 per cent fit, but hailed his team-mates for helping him rediscover some of the form which saw him bag five goals in his four games before picking up the injury.
The Congolese striker said: “It’s always something that you want as a striker, to get that confidence.
“I was out for a bit and getting back on track is very important — I needed to do that as early as possible.
“The injury is still a little bit — I’m not 100 per cent how I would like it to be.
“It will probably just go with time, but because we’ve got people who can run and do that extra bit for you, that helped as well.
“It’s always very nice as a striker to get goals.
“Goals change games and, luckily for us, it did today — and at a crucial time as well.
“I’m just pleased for the team because we do deserve it.
“From Tuesday we were a bit gutted from not getting the three points and today is very, very encouraging.
“As a striker, it’s always pleasing to score, but it’s a team game.
“There is a lot of credit for the players at the back today, they were absolutely brilliant today — the whole back four.
“It started from the back and went all the way to the top.”
Zola not only felt the goal was important for him, but also the team as a whole as it enabled them to bounce back from a couple of disappointing results against the two sides who currently sit at the top of the League Two table.
“It was very important we dug that result out today,” he said.
“Obviously, we were a bit frustrated on Tuesday that we didn’t get the three points which I thought we deserved against a very good side.
“Today was important for us to go one step further.
“We did that, and it was very pleasing really.”
Not for the first time this season, Albion struggled to break down opponents reduced to 10 men for a large part of the game.
They had to wait until stoppage time to claim victory against 10-man Southend United at Roots Hall last month, and Zola felt that experience helped them on Saturday.
He said: “When they went down to 10 men they were always going to make it hard for us and we had to be patient — that was the word.
“Sometimes when you play against 10 men it is actually harder than when you play against 11 because they put more bodies behind the ball and are probably just playing for the draw at that point.
“Credit to us and the coaching staff as well, they kept us going even at times when we were getting frustrated because they had so many bodies behind the ball.
“It’s good for us to be able to dig a result like that out against 10 men — we’d take that any day.
“There is a spirit amongst the players just to keep going.
“We have a had a very tough last two or three games, but none of us have had our heads down because we have got the experience of playing against 10 men before this season and digging out the result — and that helped.
“With the spirit that we have — just keeping going, working hard for one another, a lot of encouraging from the coaching staff and the players — you are always going to get something, even at the very last minute.
“And that’s very pleasing because a lot of games are won in the last 10, 15 minutes and if we have that spirit, it takes us one step further and keeps us going until the end.”