WIGAN Athletic boss Uwe Rosler poured praise on his players in the wake of their dramatic FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal.
It took extra time and penalties for the Gunners to reach the final after a brave and resilient display from Latics.
Rosler declared himself a proud man though. His players, who have already played more than 50 games this season battled for 120 minutes, drawing 1-1 at full-time before finally losing out in the shootout.
“We faced Arsenal - one of the top teams in the country - and did very well,” said Rosler.
“We were only eight minutes away from winning, but we had to make some substitutions early and unfortunately we could not hold out.
“We forced Arsenal to play some long balls in the second half, which is unusual for the way they play, and we still looked to attack them when we could.
“I am absolutely proud of how they performed and what they put in.
“When you can see the finish line, but just not get over and then bounce back in extra-time, that shows mental strength and character.
“When you are then going into penalties, there is always a bit of a lottery.”
Rosler also reserved praise for those players who stepped up to take a penalty in the shootout.
Gary Caldwell missed the first on a day which saw him make a return from injury which has ruled him out all season.
“There is no criticism whatsoever on Gary,” said Rosler. “I felt we selected the guys who were freshest and had confidence.
“Gary is a leader, a man and did himself justice after having not played for so many months.
“He was ready, I thought he would score. Unfortunately he didn’t. That is life, but you have to get on with it.
“Gary will recover, we will recover and move on.”
Rosler also says his team will use the cup defeat as a springboard and it will help push them onto gain promotion, not drag them down.
The German added: “I guess a lot of people will say ‘now they will never recover mentally from this’, but we will just use this now - last season at Brentford, we lost on automatic promotion in the 95th minute (of the final day) and the team recovered to go to the Wembley final.
“It is exactly that mental strength, that willpower and desire to get through the play-offs, that is definitely our target, that is what we are breathing, eating and sleeping, and I think that will happen.”