Wally Downes said that the players were made fully aware of the importance of winning against Rochdale and he praised them for earning a ‘gutsy’ victory.
Speaking to iFollow after the dramatic 4-3 win, Wally said: “It was a game beforehand that we said we had to win. I said at the weekend that we had 14 cup finals and we had to win tonight and we went out and did it.
"I was really pleased with the way we went forward trying to get the winner. To let them get back into the game was silly and that’s the sort of thing, that sort of goal, is what gets you relegated. When you look back at the end of the season and you’ve only got one point instead of three, sometimes it can be a life-changing mistake for players. People get the sack with a relegation and players gets released for silly mistakes like that, so for us to come back and be gutsy enough to try and get the winner, I have nothing but admiration for the lot of them.
“I’ve never had to question their character. The inconsistency is the only thing I’ve questioned. Sometimes we make mistakes through inexperience, but it’s not through want of trying. The boys worked their socks off and they are out there battling away. If we’re good enough, we will stay up, but if we’re not, then it won’t be for a lack of fight, that’s for sure.”
Wally added that he couldn’t bring himself to watch Joe Pigott’s decisive spot-kick, but he praised the striker’s instinct in front of goal.
“It was relief (when the penalty went in). I don’t really watch penalties, I look away at the last second and just listen for the roar! Joe is an out-and-out poacher. If we get the ball into him enough he will score goals so that’s our job, to get the ball into the box, or good balls into Michael, or whoever is playing up front with him. They can do that little bit of donkey work or that little bit of skilful stuff down the sides. When the ball comes into the box, Joe can get on the end of it.”
Our manager was quick to recognise the superb backing from 144 travelling Dons at Rochdale on a Tuesday night.
“It’s great when you get big support and you go to the fans and they are roaring. If you have about a thousand, like at Sunderland, that’s great, but to put on a performance for 140 of them and see how pleased they were, it’s really fulfilling. Perhaps not for the players so much, but when you’ve been around at big clubs and small clubs, it’s about trying to please those 140 that have slogged it and had half a day off work. It’s absolutely brilliant and more satisfying than when you have an end full of fans.”