Ian Evatt praised the Wanderers’ fans as he felt the collective focus switch fully onto the Whites’ promotion ambitions, writes Pete Oliver.
The disappointment of a penalty shoot-out defeat at Blackpool – as Wanderers’ defence of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy came to an end – was immediately replaced by a rallying cry for the players as the Whites’ sole target this season now becomes going up from League One.
“It's frustrating, but I think the fans’ reaction at the end really said it all,” said Evatt after his side had drawn 0-0 at Bloomfield Road before losing their quarter-final tie 5-4 on spot-kicks in front of over 2,000 travelling fans.
“Everyone's focus now has to be on achieving our main goal and ambition and we're in a good place to be able to do that.
“You could see from the way the supporters were with the players after the game. It was a lovely touch and it means the world to us. I think everyone's on the same page and we now have to go and achieve our goals.
“The fans could see we gave it a right go tonight and we didn't deserve, in my opinion, to lose. But the way they just switched on to what our main ambition and focus is and kind of sent that message to the players was magnificent.
“And now we have a job to do, it's as simple as that. We have to get our heads down. There are 19 league games left and we have to make sure we are bang at it in every game and, if we are, we have a great chance of achieving what we set out to do at the start of the season.”
Wanderers will resume their promotion push at home to Barnsley on Saturday, sitting second in the table and just three points behind leaders Portsmouth, who drew 2-2 at Oxford United on Tuesday night and have now played three games more than Evatt’s men.
The Whites will resume on the back of six wins from seven league games, but will not become the first team to successfully defend the Trophy as their Bloomfield Road hoodoo went on.
The Whites haven’t won at Blackpool in 13 attempts since 1977 but couldn’t have gone much closer against their League One rivals after having the best of the chances and then seeing Joel Coleman make two excellent saves when the tie went to penalties.
The back-up keeper kept Wanderers in the hunt before Zac Ashworth became the third Wanderers’ player to miss from the spot.
And Evatt was disappointed for Coleman not to finish on the winning side as he made the most of his sixth appearance of the season.
“He was so close to two or three of them and made some great saves and is a credit to himself,” added the Wanderers’ boss. “He's a great professional and is always supporting and backing Nathan (Baxter) every day. He deserved his big night. Unfortunately for him he didn't quite get it but he did himself no harm, I thought he was excellent.
“Penalty shoot-outs is a difficult way to lose but I don't want to see anyone feeling sorry for themselves. I think the performance was pretty good. In the first half in particular we dominated and had lots of good chances and maybe should have done better and then towards the end, as well ,we had one or two key moments we didn't take.
“Credit to them. This is a difficult place to come and we wish them well going forwards. It was a very hard-fought game; two very good teams, two evenly-matched teams and hopefully they'll be the ones to lift it now because if you're going to lose you want to lose to the ones that win it.
“It's difficult, but now we have to focus on our main ambition and goal and everyone knows what that is. It’s about re-grouping, seeing how the knocks settle and getting ready for Saturday which is going to be a tough game.”
Captain Ricardo Almeida Santos was withdrawn at half-time with a calf issue, while defensive colleague Eoin Toal was feeling his Achilles tendon with both set to be scanned to determine the extent of any damage ahead of Thursday’s transfer deadline.