Graham Westley was left a relieved man as his Preston North End side managed to hang on to beat Yeovil Town 3-2, despite going in at the interval a goal down.
The Lilywhites were uncharacteristically sloppy in the first half and fell behind to an early penalty, but they came out much strong in the second half and fully deserved their win.
The PNE boss was left with mixed emotions at the end of the game, praising the way his side had turned the game around after the break, but lamenting their poor first half display.
“It was a real Jekyll and Hyde performance,” said Westley. “In the first half we looked young; we looked naïve in the face of a setback. We did not really give ourselves a chance to get back on top of a game that we ought to have dominated.
“I thought the ground was a little bit subdued and I think that spread onto the field. Neither the field inspired the ground nor the ground inspired the field and it was a difficult first half.
“In the second half I thought we really took the game to them. I thought we showed more energy and appetite for the game. We trusted our quality a lot more. We did what we work on all week and we looked like a side that had a sense of purpose and had goals in it.”
Westley was disappointed with how the Club fell behind the first half but had no complaints about Mark Brown’s decision to award the penalty.
“I would have appealed for it. I did not have a clear view of it but I would have appealed for it. It looks like the goalkeeper’s caught him. I have heard from other sources that the keeper got a hand on the ball.
“I do not know. I cannot really comment. I did not too hard done by when it was given. If the keeper got a hand on the ball and not the player then obviously it is disappointing but more to the point we probably
look at the goal and I think it was sloppy anyway to allow the player get in at the back of us like that. It was sloppy defending.
“I thought our first half was littered with sloppiness. There was a lack of belief, togetherness and purpose about us and that was no surprise to see a goal of that type given away.”
With his side behind at the break, Westley revealed what he said to his players at half-time to inspire the game’s turnaround.
“Today it was a message of you need to believe in yourselves. We are not playing to our potential. If that is you I will eat my shoes because that is not you. You need to get yourselves together and develop the anger and the self-belief to go and do what this club is all about.
“In the second half I thought they did exactly that. They played with aggression and appetite and they played on the front foot. They trusted themselves with the football. They passed the ball very well and they went out there to hurt the opposition with the goals that they scored, and they did.”
“They took on board the ethos we tried to instil at half time. We needed to take the game to them. We need to let people know that when they come to Deepdale they are going to get bossed and I thought we bossed them. I thought the whole ground bossed them in the second half.”
Despite the win, the PNE boss was disappointed with the defensive errors his team made against, but was full of praise for the returning Thorsten Stuckmann, who had been on the bench for the last two games.
“We are disappointed with the goals we have conceded today. You do not like to see someone getting in at the back of your back four but we were willing to let people run between our defenders, to allow the spaces to be there and to allow players to get off us.
“In the second half you never felt like a goal like the penalty was coming. The back four was high, it was organised, it was aggressive in the right way. We defended with discipline, we defended with purpose. We get people out of our box. The second goal, the free kick, in those conditions when the wind is howling, a decent ball gets delivered and six foot sevens are in there, it is difficult and you need your goalkeeper in there to keep a high line.
“Stucky will be disappointed that the line was not kept higher so that the danger was kept away from him. He needs to boss those situations so it is a learning experience for him as a goalkeeper but I thought he came in and did well today on the whole.”
Westley stated after the game that he believes the win shows that the Club are moving in the right direction, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
“I have always talked about a 12-game target, trying to get ourselves up and running in the season, trying to learn our lessons and to stay together and make sure that we improve game-by-game.
“Today there was some good and some bad. I would love it to have been a comprehensive 90-minute performance. It was not. We have shown today that we still have mistakes in us. We have made a mistake first half, the good thing is we the character to bounce back from it.
“Obviously as the season goes on and the games go on we just need to make sure that game-by-game we are learning lessons, we are improving, we are getting better and we keep taking that level forward.”