Evatt | Focus On Next Step Forwards

Evatt presser

Wanderers launch their play-off bid on Friday night with eyes only on the short-term prize of a flying start at Barnsley, writes Pete Oliver.

The Whites face the Reds in the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final at Oakwell (KO 7.30pm) with promotion to the Championship possibly just three games away.

Peterborough or Oxford United wait in a potential Wembley final but Wanderers are thinking just one step at a time as they look to avenge last season’s play-off loss to Barnsley and give themselves the best chance to progress.

“For us it's just about focusing on this game, not getting ahead of ourselves and also not dwelling on what's happened in the past,” said Wanderers’ boss Ian Evatt, who led the Whites to a third-place finish in the regular campaign after collecting six more points and two more wins than 12 months ago.

“Our focus is on our next step forwards and that's Oakwell on Friday; not beyond that, not the home game, not anything else. It's on this game and trying to get a positive result straight away.


Evatt ball Barnsley

“We’re treating this almost as a cup tie, a one-off cup tie, and we need to get a positive result. That’s where our mindset is and that’s what it needs to be for Friday to try and get a positive result. 

“We don’t go anywhere to draw. We go and try and win every game and Friday will be no different. We’re in a mini-league now of four teams and we have to be the ones to progress. 

“We finished highest out of all these teams, which should give us confidence, and now it’s about going out to execute on a pressurised stage on Friday and then we can think about what it looks like moving forwards after that.”

Wanderers head to South Yorkshire on the back of a run of just one loss in 12 games, which includes a superb fightback at Oakwell in early March when Evatt’s men overturned a two-goal deficit to take a point in a flying finish.

With Barnsley finishing sixth after just one win their final nine games – and with Martin Devaney acting as interim manager following the dismissal of Neil Collins before last weekend’s final-day draw with Northampton – they will travel for the second leg at the Toughsheet Community Stadium next Tuesday.

Wanderers are guaranteed a huge crowd that night and will be backed by the maximum figure of just over 2,000 travelling fans at Barnsley for the opening bout.


"Good things can only be achieved together and it's now that we need to stick together and really push the boys on to get the results we need."
Ian Evatt

They will all be hoping for another trip to Wembley and beyond and while Evatt – twice a play-off winner as a player who also guided Wanderers to EFL Trophy success last season – is shelving those thoughts, he knows their role in the promotion shoot-out will be vital.

“The players are in a positive frame of mind and seeing the ticket sales for the home game shows that the fans really want to get behind us and back us and support us,” added the Wanderers’ boss, who will have former Barnsley striker Victor Adeboyejo back in his plans following his return from injury.

“As I've said all season, we were going to face challenging times and difficult circumstances, but good things can only be achieved together and it's now that we need to stick together and really push the boys on to get the results we need.

“One of the best times in my time here was that that day at Wembley last season and we want to try and replicate that best we can, this time not for a cup but for our bread and butter.

“If we can do that it will be magnificent. It's probably the best way to do things but we know that's a long way off and we're not focused on anything else but Friday, what that game is going to bring and we have to be ready for it.”

Watch the manager's full pre-match interview on Wanderers TV HERE

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