Westley praises Boro after play-off exit

Tom Pett celebrates scoring for Stevenage

Tom Pett celebrates scoring for Stevenage - Credit: Archant

Stevenage manager Graham Westley was full of praise for his players although he admitted Southend United deserved to book their place in the League Two play-off final.

Tom Pett gave Boro the lead before Southend mounted a comeback and won 3-1 after extra-time, with goals from Ryan Leonard, Stephen McLaughlin and Michael Timlin.

Phil Brown’s side won the tie 4-2 on aggregate.

“I can’t criticise or complain; I think the boys were magnificent,” said Westley.

“If you think about where they have come from, I knew tonight would take the best performance of the season to get anything. They showed real courage, quality and tenacity and, in the end, it’s injuries that have undone us. To have [Whelpdale] and Charlie [Lee] go off early and then to go to extra time and they’re bringing on fresh quality – it’s difficult.

“In the end, legs told in extra-time and the injuries hurt us.”

“On a different day we could have got something, but we can’t complain that we’re knocked out.”

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Injuries have been nothing new for Boro this season, which makes the fact they made the play-offs at all that much more remarkable. After the game, Westley insisted Boro now have a great team that can compete next season.

“The club now has a squad of players that can progress,” he said. “They have come a long way. Players like Pett, [Dean] Wells and [Jerome] Okimi were playing non-league last season and [Ben] Kennedy hadn’t kicked a first team ball. They have stepped up to the plate.

“They will take so much confidence from tonight, as will others. There’s a real chance in the dressing room that they can have good season next year. We’ll see what happens with the management and evolution of the squad, but credit to [the players] for tonight; I thought they were outstanding.”