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Ian Evatt challenges Wanderers to start shaping their future at Stevenage

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Ian Evatt challenges Wanderers to start shaping their future at Stevenage 17294080

Controversy, conspiracy, high tension and drama – all rather par for the course as Wanderers go into their 52nd game of the season at Stevenage looking to win a four-club scramble for second spot.

Unless league leaders Portsmouth suffer a collapse of epic proportion over the next seven games, one automatic promotion place is up for grabs between Derby County, Bolton, Peterborough United and Barnsley and there is little margin for further error.

Ian Evatt had signed off for the international break with a defiant statement that defeat at Pride Park did not mean his club’s chase was over. Seven days later the Rams’ defeat at Northampton Town showed why.

But the expected good news of a return for goalkeeper Nathan Baxter and top scorer Dion Charles has not been forthcoming, the reasons for which have not yet been fully explained.

Evatt attempted to separate himself from injury talk in his pre-match press conference, reiterating that his team have been playing better than their points return suggests.

“The past is the past now,” he shrugged. “We can only change our future. We know that if we can take points on Friday it changes our situation for the better and we can move on to the last six, four of which are at home, which is extremely positive.

“We know it will be tough, but we are very much looking forward to it.”

In the space of four days Wanderers went from smashing five past Oxford on the TV – a game in which Stevenage boss, Steve Evans, tipped his former club for automatic promotion – to being largely written off after a narrow, painful defeat at Derby.

Evatt is getting used to the changeable moods of a season which even a month from its end has refused to settle down.

“A game ago we’d put Oxford to the sword and they have been around the play-off places all season,” he said. “Then the Derby performance was arguably better than that, given we were away from home, but we just didn’t get the same rewards for our efforts. We have to own that and take responsibility, not look to feel sorry for ourselves or make excuses.

“I felt the players have really knuckled down to training this week. I really love having a free week where we can really coach the finer details and remind the players what is required.

“I love coaching the players and it is really difficult for me to feel like I am doing my job properly when it is Saturday-Tuesday for nine weeks. It is play and recover, you get no time to go through details on the grass it is all classroom stuff.

“I always feel our best performances come off the back of times when we have had time to coach and prepare. Fingers crossed we can perform this weekend.

“It is a shame we haven’t had the international players with us but we only have one more midweek game after Easter so we should get an opportunity and we have to finish as strongly as we possibly can.

“It has been taken out of our hands now but you saw from the result last Saturday that anything can happen in this division – anyone can beat anyone at any given time. We just have to worry about us.”

Derby’s defeat at Northampton Town was roundly celebrated among Bolton supporters as another lifeline but Evatt is acutely aware of the potential reaction if his side slip up at the Lamex Stadium on Good Friday.

He had insisted it was “not over” but we have reached the stage of the season where negative result could soon mean it will be.

“I don’t just say things for effect,” he said. “I genuinely felt there was still a lot of football to be played and that it wasn’t over. I was more pleased (after the Northampton win) for our players because being away, not playing, if the gap had gone to seven points, then even though we’d have the extra game, psychologically it would have been a challenge. The same for our fanbase.

“It almost gave us a little boost after we felt some disappointment at Derby. We all felt we’d played well, we were unlucky, unfortunate, and we shouldn’t need a reminder but it was a timely result and we are still in this fight.

“This game is a constant character test. You are always being asked questions.

“We have been tested in my tenure here, this season in particular, with things that have gone against us and we have always tried to move forwards and keep our focus. That hasn’t changed, we are still calm and there is no panic.

“If we continue to play as we have for the last few weeks, we will be OK. I genuinely believe that.

“We want to go to Stevenage and put in a good performance because off the back of it, we feel we will get the points we need to get ourselves closer to our goal.”


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