Evatt | Rico Return A Lift

Santos shirt

Ian Evatt has welcomed the return of leader Ricardo Almeida Santos as Wanderers prepare to resume their top-six challenge, writes Pete Oliver.

Santos has missed the Whites’ last five games – including four in League One – with a hamstring injury.

Evatt’s men won three and drew one of those fixtures before defeat last time out to Carlisle United to sit in the early play-off places with at least one game in hand on all bar one of the sides above them in the table.

But the Wanderers’ boss is still delighted to have his key defender back and available to face Northampton Town at the Toughsheet Community Stadium on Saturday.

“The boys who have filled in and have done incredibly well and we have still picked up points,” said Evatt.

Ricardo Santos pass

“But Rico is captain of this club and captain of this team. He's a brilliant player, we know that, but he carries an aura around him as well.

“When everyone sees him on the pitch in matches and in training it just seems to give everybody a lift.

“I've really seen that lift this week. The players have been phenomenal. It's been a really good week of training and hopefully they can apply that to the game on Saturday.”

On-loan midfielder Paris Maghoma is also back in the squad after six weeks out with a thigh injury.

And his return – along with that of Santos – couldn’t be more timely after Kyle Dempsey was ruled out for up to four weeks with a back injury.

Dempsey has been an ever-present so far for Wanderers but has finally had to give in to a problem that has been diagnosed as a fractured vertebra.

“He’s been struggling along for the benefit of the team while we had a lot of injuries,” confirmed Evatt.

Dempsey challenge keeper Stevenage

“The international break gave us an opportunity to really delve into it and get it X-rayed. It's come back with a fracture in his vertebra, so he's been playing with that for the last month.

“That speaks volumes for Kyle and what he thinks about this club and how we've treated him. He wanted to do right by us and help the team.

“Because of the length of time since it happened, the fracture is part way along the healing process but probably needs another three or four weeks to really settle down he’s back on the grass again.”

Defender Zac Ashworth will also miss the visit of the Cobblers with a slight calf issue but won’t be sidelined for long as Wanderers gear up for a run of seven games in the next three-and-a-half weeks ahead of the international break.

And summer signing Carlos Mendes Gomes is also closing in on a welcome return with an expected return to training next week after six weeks out with a hamstring injury.

“Paris and Carlos give us something different to what we already have. We’re looking forward to getting them back on the pitch and seeing what they can do,” Evatt added.

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

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