Still plenty of work left to do says Westley
Boro boss reflects on Sunday’s 2-0 win over Accrington Stanley while looking ahead to Friday’s second-leg clash
STEVENAGE boss Graham Westley acknowledged that Boro will go into Friday’s second-leg tie against Accrington with a good advantage after Sunday’s 2-0 victory – but insists there is still plenty of hard work to do.
First half goals from Stacy Long and Joel Byrom gave Boro a crucial two-goal cushion going into the second leg but Westley knows the tie is far from over given Accrington’s excellent home record.
“I’d sooner have won the game than drawn it and I’d sooner have won it than lost it,” said a philosophical Westley after the match.
“Two-nil is what it is, and at this stage you only need to look at the other play-off games to see how tight affairs they can be. It is an advantage so we’d sooner have that than not.
“We could have won by more but it could have been worse. We’ve got Daisy to thank for two fantastic saves – one down to his right in the first half and the one-on-one in the second half – that could have easily made the scoreline worse from our point of view.
“As I say, it is what it is and we know it’s going to be a very difficult second leg. They’re a good side at home, it’s a tough place to go and I’m sure they’ll make it very difficult for us on Friday night. It’s going to take one very strong and determined performance from us to make sure we get the right result to make sure we get through to the final.”
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Westley explained that tiredness and a lack of game time in a number of players were the reasons why Boro struggled to maintain the same tempo in the second half compared to the first against Stanley who, for the first 45 minutes, looked there for the taking.
He said: “I would have loved to have kicked on in the second half and we did try to. But the lack of match minutes in Stacy (Long), Joel (Byrom) and Lawrie (Wilson) meant realistically we were always going to struggle a little bit for energy in the middle of the park. We didn’t really have any natural substitutes to come on in there and we had to ask a lot of those boys and they dug deep to get through the bulk of the 90 minutes.
“We asked them (Accrington) a lot of questions. We managed to force them back, our two wide players got after their full-backs and we stopped them playing their natural game. They resorted to a lot of back-to-front tactics and we picked up a lot of second balls to get our game going forward.
“We were nice and positive and created a number good chances and it could easily have been more than two at half time.”
Westley appreciates the difficulty of the task facing his team on Friday, not only because of Accrington’s near-faultless home record this season but also because he has taken a Boro team into a play-off second-leg tie before with a two-goal advantage and still missed out on the final after losing to Cambridge United in 2009.
“No two games are ever the same and I think we went away from Cambridge knowing where we went wrong and those lessons are ones we’ll try to put in place to try and win Friday’s game,” added Westley.
“We’ll go there to win the game, as we do with every game that we plan and prepare for. We’ve won as many matches away as we have at home so we’re positive about the job we’ve got to do, although we know it’s not going to be an easy one.
“The whole environment is set out to make your life difficult and it’s a tough place to go. Their home record speaks for itself, it’s a long journey and every detail will need to be taken into account to make sure we’re right on the money.
“Hopefully one or two can come off the treatment table before the weekend, and if that’s the case, it will give us even more options and that will be even better.”
Westley also heaped praise on captain Mark Roberts after the centre-back produced a dominant display to ensure his side kept a clean sheet.
He said: “He turned what could have been very dangerous moments into ones that you just shrug your shoulders at. He puts his body and head on the line and he gets in there where other men won’t dare to – he’s a true leader.”