Latics defender James Perch says the players can be proud of their efforts over the course of a massive 62-game campaign after Monday’s 2-1 extra-time defeat to Queens Park Rangers pulled the curtain down cruelly on a memorably campaign.
Perch made 52 appearances over the course of the season, a feat bettered by only Emmerson Boyce, Leon Barnett and James McArthur and the former Newcastle United full-back says the overriding emotion among the group is one of deflation after a devastating late blow against the R’s.
“We’re gutted, deflated; it’s tough to take when you take the lead,” Perch explained. “They played well don’t get me wrong and I thought they put us under a bit of pressure but I thought we defended well.
“It looked like we were going to hang on and then they get the penalty and score in extra-time to kill us off.
“The gaffer said before the game to go out and give it your all and don’t have any regrets when you come back in and I think the lads can hold their heads up high and be proud because we did Wigan proud, the fans who travelled down proud, we put in a spirited performance but it just wasn’t to be.”
Perch opened the scoring at Loftus Road on nine minutes with a neat finish from James McClean’s cross, though an onslaught from the hosts for the remainder of the game saw Latics’ resistance broken 20 minutes from time when Charlie Austin finished from the spot before the R’s top scorer put Harry Redknapp’s side ahead in extra-time.
And Perch says he’d hope his goal would send Latics to another Wembley visit at the end of a manic season, though it wasn’t to be.
“It sounds silly but maybe I scored too early because it meant we were going to have to defend for the rest of the game,” he said. “I’d have preferred to have scored in the 89th minute or something.
“I’ve played 52 games I think but one more wouldn’t have hurt if it was a final but it’s come to an end, all we can do now is rest, look after ourselves, stay fit and come back next season injury free and ready to crack on.”
And now Perch says Latics’ focus will be on repeating their form during the second-half of the 2013-14 season over the course of the new campaign in order to mount a serious challenge for automatic promotion.
“That’s all we can do; we know what we’ve got now with this gaffer,” Perch continued. “He’s a good manager, he’s got us playing well and getting results from all the time he’s been here really.
“Hopefully we continue that next season and go for automatic promotion, not all of this play-off business.”