Ian Evatt believes young striker Conor Carty has a bright future after scoring his first senior goal.
Carty came off the bench and hit the back of the net within minutes as his superb late strike earned Wanderers a battling 2-2 draw at Tranmere Rovers.
The League Two side went on to claim the bonus point in the Papa Johns Trophy tie after winning a penalty shoot-out on 5-4 on penalties.
But Carty’s injury-time equaliser kept the Whites top of Group B on a big night for the 20-year-old debutant, who joined Wanderers from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer.
“I’m delighted for him. He is a natural finisher,” said Evatt.
“He has that short back-lift and that quick strike before keepers can get set and I was surprised by the goal.
“When it bounced I knew he would hit it and I wasn’t surprised it went in because he’s been doing in training and he’s been doing that in the B team and we think he’s got a bright future.
“He’s, again, a good example for the rest of the B team lads to show that if you get your head down, you work hard at your game and do the right things in training and do the right things in B team games you’ll get opportunities in the first team and Conor has taken his.”
Carty was one of six players from the B team who started on the bench for the Whites after Evatt made 10 changes to his starting line-up following last weekend’s third successive League One win.
The other substitute used was Lloyd Isgrove, who made a welcome return from 10 months out through injury.
The wideman got through an impressive 30 minutes and even though it was his missed spot-kick in the shoot-out that proved decisive, he also played a part in a successful comeback after Wanderers had trailed 2-0 at the end of a disappointing first half.
“I’m delighted for Issy. It’s been a tough journey but as I said on Saturday, he’s in a group and a team of fighters,” added Evatt.
“He’s had to fight and get his head down but he’s come back tonight and shown his quality.
“We lost a point on the penalty shoot-out but we gained a point with our second-half performance.
“And the biggest point we’ve gained tonight is that as a reference point we know that our energy levels need to be a lot better than they were in the first half.”
Kieran Sadlier launched the fightback when he volleyed home his third goal of the season with 20 minutes to go and Evatt was happy to keep the Whites’ destiny in the competition in their own hands with one group game to go.
“We’ve got a home game coming up against Leeds (U21s) which we need to win now,” said the Wanderers’ boss.
“It’s in our own hands and if we win the game we’re through to the next round.”