Peter Atherton praised the character of the players as 10-man Wanderers battled back to earn a potentially precious point at Northampton, writes Pete Oliver.
The Whites overcame the blow of conceding an early goal and losing midfielder George Thomason to a straight red card after less than 30 minutes at the Sixfields Stadium.
They then had to re-group at half-time when manager Ian Evatt was also sent off but came out all guns blazing to secure a 1-1 draw thanks to Carlos Mendes Gomes’ first league goal for the club.
“We didn't start the game particularly well, we all know that,” said assistant manager Peter Atherton, who directed operations from the dug-out after the break.
“But in the second half their response to being down to 10 men was brilliant. We dominated the second half and to get a point with 10 men shows big character from the players.
“We had to re-group, but the tactical changes the gaffer made and the players’ application in the second half got us something from the game.
“It was brave in the set-up, in terms of not just sitting back and waiting for the last 10 minutes. We knew we had the ability and players in the team who could get us that goal. We just had to make sure we were secure and manage the game effectively and we did that.
“We built ourselves up through the half and finished strongly and in the end it was almost disappointing we didn't win the game with the chances we had late on. There was a bit of a goalmouth scramble and there must have been about five shots in five seconds.
“I'm proud of what the lads did in the second half, but we were disappointed with our start to the game.”
Wanderers were disappointed with both decisions to show red cards to Thomason and Evatt, given the level of impact from Thomason and the fact that the Whites' manager was adamant he had not used any foul and abusive language when talking to referee Jeremy Simpson at half-time.
But a tough afternoon ended on a high thanks to the headed leveller from Mendes Gomes, whose introduction along with Aaron Collins helped spark Wanderers into life as an attacking force.
The 74th-minute goal – which extended Wanderers’ unbeaten league run to four games – means the Whites remain just a point behind second-placed Derby with two games in hand on the Rams as they head home for a big double-header next week.
“There are no easy games,” added Atherton. “Everybody knows that. I know it's a cliché, but there aren’t. Everybody is scrapping. They (Northampton) are desperate for the points as well, so you have to knuckle down and if you're not playing well make sure you don't lose and we did that today.
“We keep doing what we're doing, we're in a good place, we stay positive and we build on that second-half performance going into Tuesday.
“We’ve got two home games now. Wycombe is the first one and we have to address that right. That brings different challenges but we will certainly be up for it and that second-half showed that in the players.”
Watch Peter Atherton's full-post match interview on Wanderers TV.