GARY Middleton could not give his players enough praise on Saturday night after they went through to the last 16 of the FA Carlsberg Vase following a thrilling 3-2 victory over Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire.
An ecstatic Middleton said: “There is a great togetherness within the camp and I thought it was a superb all round team performance.
“From the front and Phill Bell dropping into the midfield to work and close opponents down and I thought Mark O’Dea was outstanding – I could go on because there were lots of good performances out there.
“But it was the last 32 of the FA Vase against difficult opponents and you need 11 players performing – and we got that from the lads today. They were outstanding.
“We’ve had some tough selection decisions to make before the game on the team and also the system that we laid out.
“We knew it was going to be hard but I thought we started great. We’ve gone one nil up with a terrific finish from Mark (O’Dea) then added a second after a scintillating delivery by Damen Mullen and an exquisite header from Gareth (Rees) at the far post.”
Middleton, however, was taken aback as the home side drew level with two goals in a little over five minutes.
“I thought we looked comfortable because we knew what their threat was – from set pieces and the ball coming into the box, and also the fact that they had lads who were good in the air,” he said.
“Unfortunately despite being comfortable, Newport emphasised their danger after scoring from a second phase for the first goal and then they have levelled from a set piece which we were aware of.
“It was disappointing but then we have gone back in front with a great finish from Gareth Bainbridge.”
Middleton said his half time team talk was straightforward.
“We asked for the lads to do much of the same after the break,” he said.
“The game hadn’t changed in any way as far as we were concerned. It was the way it was at 3pm only we had a goal advantage.
“I thought we were comfortable second half without really threatening too much.
“We sat 4-5-1 for the last 20 minutes and I thought we thoroughly deserved the win.”
Colliers keeper Karl Dryden prevented a last ditch equaliser and Middleton said: “Karl saw it late because the ball came through a crowd of players but he managed to get a hand on it – but then I thought he (Karl) was terrific all day because he came and helped the back four.”
Middleton also praised the travelling army of support, adding: “What else can I say other than they were fantastic once again.
“They made it like a home game generating a great atmosphere – and we rewarded them with a merited victory.”