Westley admits surprise at play-off opportunity

STEVENAGE boss Graham Westley admitted he was surprised to learn that Boro’s play-off hopes remain in their own hands following Saturday’s defeat at Northampton Town.

Westley’s side were well below their best at Sixfields on Saturday, but they will have certainly been relieved upon hearing the news at full time that rivals Gillingham had suffered a shock 4-2 home defeat to Macclesfield, meaning Boro now have to equal or better the Gills’ result on Saturday to make it into the end of season play-offs.

“I was really shocked when I heard that (it’s in Boro’s own hands),” said Westley.

“I certainly didn’t walk into the dressing room expecting to hear that news. It’s in our own hands, terrific. It’s a great opportunity. The lads have done brilliant this year to be where they are – in with a chance on the final day of getting into the play-offs.

“If they pull it off it will be a sensational achievement. Credit to them for what they’ve done. I’m sure, with some lessons learnt, there’s every chance we can win the game.

“I think it’ll be a fabulous afternoon. We’re going to look forward to it, do our best to enjoy it and get the most out of it.

“If someone had said on the first day of the season you’re going to go into the last day of the season with a fixture to win your way into the play-offs there are a lot of people around the football club who wouldn’t have believed it.

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“Northampton have shown what’s possible when the town and the club get together and the players go in support of all of that and it’s up to us to have a similar day this weekend.”

Westley is sure his side will be in for a tough encounter at the Lamex against The Shakers, who still have a chance of lifting the League 2 title should they beat Boro and Chesterfield lose at home to Gillingham.

“They are a fabulous side, (they) play good football, score goals,” added Westley. “They do everything in a traditional footballing way. They really want to work the football, they’ve got good pace about them, they’re a good football side and they deserve the promotion they’ve earned.

“The way they play, the way they conduct themselves, they’re rightful contenders for the title.

Westley acknowledges that Boro haven’t been overly successful at home this season against teams at the top end of the table, but insists the performance against Port Vale in their last home fixture demonstrates how much the team has grown.

He said: “(The Port Vale win) shows we’ve improved as a team. We’d lost a lot of games against the top clubs, and certainly at home we’d drawn a lot of games against the top clubs, and we hadn’t been able to convert them into victories.

“The Port Vale victory showed the team had begun to grow, to develop, to improve and we need more of that this weekend.

“Why not put in our best home performance of the season this weekend, get the town out in its numbers, create a rocking atmosphere because we know what we’re like at home when that crowd is going and the boys are on the front foot.

“We’ve not rewarded them (the supporters who have turned out in numbers in recent weeks), they’ve been brilliant. They’ve come in their numbers, they’ve sung for their country, and it’s been great to be a part of. They deserve the success that I hope the boys give them.”

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