Evatt | There's An Awful Lot To Fight For

Ian Evatt look Shrewsbury

Ian Evatt insists Wanderers still have everything to fight for as they continue to pursue a two-pronged promotion push, writes Pete Oliver.

The Whites go into their penultimate game of the regular season at home to Port Vale on Saturday three points behind second-placed Derby.

Evatt isn’t giving up hope of catching the Rams - who go to Cambridge United this weekend - to follow champions Portsmouth straight up.

But if an automatic promotion spot just eludes his side, the Wanderers’ boss believes Wanderers will be well placed to tackle a play-off campaign after guaranteeing a top-four finish in League One and the potential advantage of a second leg at home in the semi-finals.

“The season is still alive and at this stage of the season that was crucial for us,” said Evatt.

“We are still hoping for some help from elsewhere, that's fair to say, and we need to make sure we win our games, which we didn't manage to do on Tuesday and Saturday, even though largely the performances were pretty good.


Dion Charles celebration Port Vale

“That's where we are at. If the automatics don't happen, which we know is going to be hard - but you never know in football - we've secured a second-leg home game (in the play-offs) which again is crucial to us and how we do things and how important being at home is with our fans.

“There's an awful lot to fight for. Yes, there are some frustrations and disappointment. Of course there is. As I've said before, now is not the time for that. We've had lots of good times this season and some bad as well.

“We are getting over the injury crisis we've had this year so far and now we've got to use this time to get players fully up to speed, regardless of where we find ourselves. 

“If that's automatics, great, brilliant. If it's the play-offs, finishing third or fourth with a second leg at home, then great also. We're still in it and that's where we wanted to be.”

Wanderers have surrendered the advantage to Derby in the battle for second place by drawing their last two games against Portsmouth and Shrewsbury Town.

But victory over a Vale side which will almost certainly be relegated without a win of their own could still be pivotal if the Rams lose at Cambridge at the same time.

And Evatt wants his side to be more ruthless to keep that prospect alive ahead of a final-day trip to fourth-placed Peterborough, when Derby – whose goal difference is currently five better than Wanderers  – entertain relegated Carlisle United.

“Most of the performances for us look the same; our creativity, the amount of chances we have,” added Evatt, whose side set a new club record for goals in a calendar year in 2024 and with 50 home league goals this season is second only to Peterborough in the scoring stakes. 


“We've all been in and around this game for an awful long time and understand that just when you think something is set in stone in football it comes back and changes your views."
Ian Evatt

“There has been too big a difference and inconsistency between the seven we scored against Exeter, the fives we scored against Oxford and Reading. The chances look the same, we just haven't taken them in some games. 

“To go from one or zero goals to five, there has to be more of a level of consistency there. But we are more than capable of putting goals together when everything clicks, so that gap can be eradicated pretty quickly.

“But as I've said before, we need help from elsewhere and that's not really the place we wanted to be in. We are where we are and if that happens, great. If it doesn't, then we need to be ready for the future and the games that will take place in the play-offs.

“We've all been in and around this game for an awful long time and understand that just when you think something is set in stone in football it comes back and changes your views.

“We saw that on Sunday with the Premier League title race and we've seen that with the English clubs being knocked out the Champions League this week. Things change quickly in football. We're hopeful it can and for us to take advantage of that we have to be ready and that means winning the game on Saturday.”

Top scorer Dion Charles, who bagged the winner when Wanderers beat Vale at the end of September, may get a start to bump up his game time after two appearances from the bench following two months out injured.

Evatt is also keen to increase striker Dan Nlundulu’s workload to sharpen him up for a potential play-off programme after a lengthy spell out, while Gethin Jones and Josh Sheehan may also return on Saturday after not figuring in mid-week.

Captain Ricardo Almeida Santos also sat out the 2-2 draw against the Shrews after recent injury concerns, with Evatt weighing up the best time to bring back the Whites’ star defender ahead of a run-in which may consist of two or a maximum of five more fixtures in Wanderers’ on-going pursuit of promotion.

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

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