Peterborough United manager Grahame Westley’s post-match happiness today (January 9) had little to do with a win over a club that let him go, but much to do with making progress in the FA Cup.
Posh reached the fourth round for the first time since 2008 with a comfortable 2-0 win over Championship side Preston at the ABAX Stadium. Westley had an unhappy 13 months as manager at Deepdale which ended in the sack in February, 2013.
But revenge was far from Westley’s mind. He was dignified with his comments before the tie and declined the opportunity to gloat after goals from Martin Samuelsen and Conor Washington had secured his side a deserved victory.
Westley felt Samuelsen’s seventh-minute goal was a key moment against a Preston side who have struggled in front of goal this season despite their comfortable mid-table position in the Championship.
Westley said: “We knew they hadn’t conceded a goal in the first 15 minutes of a game this season. We knew they hadn’t come from behind to win a game away from home so we wanted a fast start and Martin’s superbly-struck goal gave us that.
“We also knew that Preston like to defend deep and in numbers so we encouraged our players to shoot from distance at every opportunity. We felt if we did that, they would have to come out and we could get behind them down the sides. It would have been a blow to them to fall behind so early.
“Happily it all worked a treat. We were probably favourites before the game and we went out and played like favourites. We did the job we had to do and we did it well. We deserved to win and I am far more delighted that we are in the fourth round of the FA Cup than I am that we beat a team I used to manage.
“My focus as you would expect is on Peterborough and I am enjoying watching our players perform and I am enjoying the support they are getting from our fans.
“We disappointed our fans at Walsall and yet they all turned up at Sheffield United and gave us phenomenal support which helped us beat a very good team. The fans were excellent again today. The atmosphere they generated was terrific and definitely helped us get through.
“Winning at Sheffield also gave us the belief that we could beat Championship sides as that’s what they are in all but name.
“My players are so brave. They trust each other in possession. They trust that they can all accept the ball under pressure and keep it.
“We dominated large parts of this game because of that skill. We also had phases when we concentrated too much on defending. We have to remember that our strength, no matter what the situation is in any game, is our attacking and our second goal proved that.
“Conor Washington will get the headlines for another outstanding finish and Michael Smith will quite rightly get praise for a superb assist, but we should also appreciate the skill and precision that Chris Forrester showed in starting the move.
“We showed some great movement at times against very strong opposition. It’s a very good day for the club.”
Washington’s 13th goal in 14 appearances will again ensure he’s the subject of transfer speculation. Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony revealed earlier this week that he had turned down three multi-million pound bids for the 23 year-old striker.
But Westley insists the transfer talk won’t affect his player.
“It can be hard to focus when you have been the subject of so much attention,” Westley added. “But anyone watching Conor in this game would have seen a very focused and professional young man.
“One decision Conor has to make is whether he wants to go into the Championship or would he prefer to wait for a Premier League club? He is a great talent with a great scoring record so the biggest opportunities might not yet have presented themselves.
“We won’t be giving away any of our players, but we also won’t be standing in their way if offers that are acceptable to the players and the club arrive. That’s what we do and if we keep playing as we are there is bound to be a whole lot more speculation, and maybe some serious offers, for many of our players.”
Jon Taylor missed the game today because of a slight injury. He’s expected to return for next Saturday’s (January 16) League One match at home to Southend. Southend, despite a debut goal from former Posh player Tyrone Barnett, threw away a 2-0 lead at Swindon today and lost 4-2. Posh remain in sixth place - the final play-off spot - with a three-point lead over seventh.
The draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup takes place on Monday (January 11, from 7pm) live on BBC One, during ‘The One Show’.
The fourth round takes place on the weekend of January 30/31 meaning the home League One match with Oldham scheduled for January 30 will have to be re-arranged.