Gary Caldwell on a ‘job well done’ against Birmingham City.
Gary Caldwell praised the mental capabilities of the Latics squad after a battling performance saw Uwe Rosler’s side secure their place in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs with a 1-0 win over Birmingham City at St. Andrew’s on Tuesday evening.
Callum McManaman scored the only goal of the game after three minutes to ensure that Latics will face a semi-final with either Queens Park Rangers or Derby County following the normal season’s finale at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
And Caldwell, who was making his first start of the campaign following his rehabilitation from a hip injury, said the players knew it was a game they had to win to avoid any added pressure on the final day of the season.
“It was a game we felt we had to win because we didn’t want to go into Saturday needing a win and taking it right to the wire,” Caldwell explained.
“We got the job done; it wasn’t pretty – especially in the second half – but we got the job done and that’s what mattered.
“I think it was a night for players who know how to get the job done; the togetherness was there, I think the spirit in the group was excellent, everyone worked their socks off, the subs that came on added something and put some energy into the team when it needed it.
“It’s been a really collective effort from when the gaffer came in to get us in this position so now we’ve got three massive games we hope that are obviously going to define our season.”
Caldwell was certainly a contender for the man of the match award on his first league appearance of the season as a steely display saw him lead from the front in dealing with Birmingham’s aerial threat.
Partnered by Emmerson Boyce and Rob Kiernan in central defence, Latics dealt with what the Blues had to offer with Scott Carson, who was the other change to the line-up from the Blackpool defeat, chipping in with some fine saves in the closing stages.
And Caldwell says the collective effort was superb, with the only criticism coming in the lack of care for the ball in the latter minutes of the game.
“It was great, obviously it was a big game, and the manager changed the team a little bit, changed the formation and got it right,” he added.
“I think second-half we could have kept the ball better and controlled the game a bit more because we invited pressure but, to be fair, I thought we defended it really well up until the last five or ten minutes when there was a few half chances from their knock-downs that Scott [Carson] had to make some good saves from.
“Nikola Zigic is a handful; anyone of that height is going to cause problems.
“Overall I thought we defended him well, he’s obviously going to win headers so you have to defend the second ball and other than the last ten minutes of the second-half I thought we did that well.”
On a personal note, Caldwell was delighted to be back in a Latics starting XI after a frustrating stage of his career saw him miss the end of last campaign and also the majority of the 2013-14 season.
However, the Scot says the win and clean sheet on his return is pleasing and he is keen for more come the end of the campaign.
“It’s obviously good for me; it’s been a lot of hard work in the gym, out on your own working with the physios and the fitness coaches and it can be very difficult,” Caldwell continued.
“It’s nice for that hard work to get rewarded with a win and a clean sheet when I come back in and I hope for more between now and the end of the season.”