“I’m just getting my breath back!” said Mark Bowen, speaking to the media following the conclusion of a rollercoaster evening in Cardiff, as penalty kicks sent reading into the next round of the Emirates FA Cup… after our replay had ended 3-3 after extra-time. The tie could hardly have gone on any longer.
“We tried to be honest with ourselves and the supporters, and we weren’t at it in the first half – we were poor. We knew that we had to change things round, so we had a good look at things and made a couple of changes.
“In the second half we showed character, determination, heart. All the things that the FA Cup is about, and what the fans want to see. They bought into what we were trying to do.
“We’ve had three games against Cardiff and you haven’t been able to split the two teams. To concede three times and to come back every time into the game… that can do big things for the rest of the season.
“I knew that I had good penalty takers in the team. I just asked them to strike it true, strike it well.
“After the final whistle, I said to the players – and it might sound a bit strange – but I said that I genuinely don’t care if we win or lose. For me, they were all winners. We had got ourselves to that stage to end up on penalties. If we had lost on penalties, it wouldn’t have changed my opinion of my players and what they put in.
“So no pressure – go and strike it true, and if we win, we win. And luckily we win.
“And after the game, I said to the guys: what a feeling that is. The way it went, how we progressed, and yet again I am proud of the character they showed. I have got a top group of players and if they show that will to win for the rest of the season, then we won’t be doing too bad as a club.
“Gabe Osho came into the side tonight; he had cramp with about an hour to go, but he kept going, kept playing and he was one of the first to put his hand up to say he wanted to take a penalty. I must say, that surprised me a bit! It shows his strength of character, his maturity.
“I don’t like to name individuals on a night like tonight. Going into the second half, every player put in a real shift and showed the determination to get this club into the next round of the FA Cup. Knowing what it means to the club and the fans itself.
“It’s nice to get a home draw – although we’re facing a club that have been on the up-and-up for quite a long time now, so we’re under no illusions about the task ahead.
“But it’s nice tonight and until then for us to be in the next round of the cup, and it’s good for the club.”