Emmerson Boyce says the Wigan Athletic squad is determined to be back at Wembley for the Sky Bet Championship play-off final in May after suffering a heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup with Budweiser semi-final on Saturday.
Boyce watched on as Mikel Arteta, Kim Kallstrom, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla all converted from the spot to send the Gunners into the final and end Latics’ defence of the FA Cup after previously going 12 games unbeaten in the competition.
Jordi Gomez’s penalty just after the hour mark looked to have won the tie for Latics, though Per Mertesacker replied inside the last ten minutes to send the tie to extra-time and then penalties.
And Boyce says, though the defeat hurts, it’s important the players use the loss as added motivation to secure promotion at the national stadium next month.
“We go into our next league games determined to be back at Wembley in the play-off final and to win it,” Boyce said. “We’re not going to let this be our last visit because we’ve got unfinished business and we want to be back in the Premier League.
“We want our next game to come as soon as possible because everybody else played on Saturday and closed the gap on us so we’re determined to consolidate our play-off place.
“The FA Cup run has been fantastic but the league is our priority, we hold our heads up high because we defended the FA Cup as well as we could but now we focus on the league, we’re full of determination to do it for ourselves, for the fans and for the club.”
Boyce says Latics have to take positives from their performance at Wembley into their final five league games as Uwe Rosler’s side look to secure their place in the top six.
The 34-year-old praised the character of the group following the defeat and urged his teammates to now move on and look ahead to the remainder of the campaign.
“It was disappointing, we put in a great team performance and we were just unlucky,” he added.
“We took Arsenal to penalties which shows the great character of the team; the shootout itself is a lottery in many ways and it’s just one of them things.
“It’s gone now, we can hold our heads up high and we’re disappointed but we’ve got to focus on getting back to Wembley now in the play-off final.
“I think we did believe we had a great chance; we’d defended well and for their goal a shot has deflected and found the man at the back post which is just the luck sometimes.
“I think we showed great character, though, and we’re a Championship team that’s taken Arsenal to penalties; it’s not nice to lose but it’s a lottery and one of them things that we have to move on from.”
Boyce was also quick to praise the impact of forward Callum McManaman and goalkeeper Scott Carson who both came into the starting XI at Wembley.
McManaman won the penalty which Gomez converted and Carson made a string of fine saves to keep the Gunners at bay.
“Callum is an excellent talent and we want to see more from him because he’s an exciting player – he steps up for the big games and he’s delivered,” Boyce continued.
“Against Manchester City he was first class and against Arsenal he was outstanding – we’ve seen him do things regularly in training and he’s got a great future ahead of him.
“Scott’s the same he come back into the team and produced a great performance with some top saves and I think he’s another example of how fantastic a squad we have here.”