Whittingham hails gritty Pompey
Fri, 29 Mar 2013 20:44:00
Roberto Martinez has told his players to keep performing well to stay in the Wigan Athletic side and has praised Ali Al Habsi for strengthening his case with a fine display for Oman.
Al Habsi was left on the bench for Wigan's win over Newcastle United as Martinez kept faith with the side that beat Everton in the FA Cup, meaning another start for Spanish youngster Joel.
But Al Habsi impressed Martinez with the way he played for Oman in a 2-2 draw against Australia in midweek, putting him in contention for a recall against Norwich City on Saturday.
"Ali was fantastic against Australia," Martinez said. "He made six incredible saves from Tim Cahill alone.
"I think that was the Australian tactic, looking for Cahill in the box. But Ali stood up to him well."
Martinez admits he will have to rely on his whole squad for the rest of the season as Wigan battle for Premier League survival and FA Cup glory.
"Every position is for grabs," he stated. "Remember we have at least 10 games in the next seven weeks, and every player is going to be needed.
"Obviously because of the FA Cup run, all of a sudden we have more players fighting for places in the team.
"I'm not going to make the decision on who plays - it will be football that makes the decision.
"That's why I feel the excitement around the place is so different, because everyone knows they absolutely have to be at their best. And at this stage of the season, the rewards are huge.
"Over the next seven weeks there will be moments that will be unique in a player's career."
Martinez may be forced into at least one change this weekend, with Antolin Alcaraz (groin) joining Callum McManaman (ankle) on the injured list.
"It's complicated with Antolin, because he has developed fatigue related to his injury," Martinez added.
"We perhaps should have given him more time."
Teenage forward Jed Wallace bagged his third goal in three matches after three minutes to put Pompey ahead but Keith Keane's stunning volley after 77 minutes levelled for the Lilywhites.
Portsmouth rode their luck at times - Jack King headed against the bar and Joe Garner hit a post before the hosts eventually equalised - and while North End have lost just once in eight games, they have drawn four of those.
Grayson said: "It was a game where we created some good chances but we've dropped two points. We've hit the bar and the post.
"We're disappointed with the goal we conceded but full credit to the players, they stuck to it.
"We had enough chances to win the game and that's disappointing but if you don't win it you make sure you keep fighting and scrapping to make sure you get something out of it.
"It was a great goal. I thought he did well when he went into midfield and Keith has been very good for us since I've been here.
"It needed to be something like that goal as their keeper had made some good saves. Once we got the goal it looked like we were going to kick on and get that winner, but it wasn't to be.
"They kept plugging away which is the good thing and they didn't let the early goal affect them and they carried out the instructions I wanted them to do."
Teenage forward Jed Wallace bagged his third goal in three matches after three minutes to put Pompey ahead but Keith Keane's stunning volley after 77 minutes levelled for Preston.
Portsmouth rode their luck at times - Jack King headed against the bar and Joe Garner hit a post before North End eventually equalised - but they have now lost just once in seven matches.
They remain in the relegation zone, however, but Whittingham is adamant his weary troops will battle to the end against Tranmere on Easter Monday.
"It's a point gained really, considering the performance. I think on the other side of things it shows how far this group of players has come," said Whittingham.
"I thought we battled against everything Preston threw against us and it took a good goal to beat our goalkeeper.
"I think everybody could see we weren't playing at our best but I think we were dogged and we had a couple of strokes of luck where they hit the bar and the post.
"The goal gave us something to keep hold of but we didn't play at our best like our fans want to see. It was a dogged performance and they dug in.
"Before the game we didn't think they were tired. We are where we are in terms of a small squad but the players that have come in have put in a good shift and put in some good work for the fans."