Manager Graham Westley praised the togetherness of the whole club as Peterborough United gained an unexpected point from a 1-1 League One draw at Wigan today (March 5).
Westley, who for the first time conceded that promotion may now be beyond his side, has thanked chairman Darragh MacAnthony and director of football Barry Fry for their support during a difficult time for the team. The point at the DW Stadium against a team now on a 14-game unbeaten run, courtesy of a superb Marcus Maddison free-kick strike 10 minutes from time, ended a sequence of five straight defeats.
Westley said: “We will still believe and we will still try and win as many games as possible between now and the end of the season, but the play-offs are probably beyond us now.
“It’s a shame as when we have our best team on the pitch we are a match for anyone in this division as we showed against a very strong Wigan side.
“The game went in phases and a draw was probably the fairest result. We had spells of dominance and they had spells when they were well on top, When we had the ball we were exciting and when they were dominant we were very resilient.
“The players showed they care about the club, they showed they care about the fans and they showed they care about improving and winning games.
“We have been on a horrible run and it has been dreadful to be part of it, but I’ve consistently said that we can beat anyone at our best. No-one would ever say that a Peterborough United win in League One is a surprise result as they know we have good players here.
“Unfortunately we’ve had to put too many young ones on the pitch at the same time. Players who will become very good, but are probably not ready yet and that leads to errors and defeats. We’ve had eight or nine members of the first choice team injured at the same time which is a lot to overcome.
“BUt I’ve never lost confidence in the squad and it’s been great for me that Darragh and Barry have shown great understanding in what we have been through and what we are trying to achieve. There’s been a real togetherness about the whole club during the difficult run, We’ve never fallen out which is very encouraging for the future. The big picture remains very encouraging.”
Westley handed a debut to new signing Simon Gillett today. He made four changes to his starting line-up and used Jack Baldwin at right-back rather than his preferred central defensive position. He gave his recent signings from Nuneaton, Aaron Williams and Callum Chettle, more experience of the Football League from the substitutes’ bench.
Maddison now has four goals in his last four games - the club have sent the goal Posh scored against Oldham last month to a dubious goals panel believing that Maddison’s shot had crossed the line before Souleymane Coulibaly headed home a rebound - but the draw leaves Posh 10 points from the play-off places and 10 points clear of the relegation zone with 11 matches to go.
“Simon Gillett gave us good experience in midfield today,” Westley added. “I was delighted by his accomplished, composed display. I know what this team needs and he gave it to us.
“We also have top players like Jack Baldwin and Gaby Zakuani working their way towards full fitness which is good for us. I played Jack at right-back because I felt we would need a full-back whose natural game wasn’t going forward to combat Wildschut.
“It will also work in our favour that so many of our younger, inexperienced players have been blooded. Callum and Aaron were very good in the time they were on the pitch.
“We’ve had spells this season when individuals have been very good and Marcus Maddison is playing really well right now. He’s listened to criticism and his work ethic towards the team has improved as a result. He’s improved by a fantastic degree in recent weeks.”
On-loan West Ham midfielder Martin Samuelsen missed today’s game because of a thigh strain.
Westley has offered left-back Kgosi Ntlhe, who was left out of the matchday 18 today, the chance to go out on loan.