Ian Evatt was proud of Wanderers’ efforts on and off the pitch as the Whites said goodbye to one of their own and exited the FA Cup with heads held high, writes Pete Oliver.
Wanderers marked Saturday’s sad passing of lifelong fan Iain Purslow with some touching tributes before their third-round replay against Luton Town.
And Evatt’s men then pushed their Premier League opponents all the way with an outstanding performance before losing 2-1 to see their cup run ended.
“The most important thing is that we did everyone proud. That's what I wanted and asked for from the players and, as always, they've responded,” said the Wanderers’ boss.
“Pre-game we spoke with the players about how we wanted to look and what we wanted to do and after the tragic and sad events of Saturday we wanted to make Iain proud, make his family proud and the rest of our fan-base proud of what and who we are as a team, and I think the players went out there and executed that really well.
“All that matters to me is that the family is comforted, everyone treats them with respect and gives them the time they deserve to mourn.
“It was our duty tonight to do one of our own proud, do his family proud and the rest of our brilliant fanbase and I think we did that.”
Wanderers led through Dion Charles’ 16th goal of the season before the Hatters quickly levelled and then sealed their passage through with a 57th-minute winner from Chiedozie Ogbene.
But the Whites were a constant threat and thought they had at least forced extra-time when Charles had the ball in the net again.
That effort was chalked off for a tight off-side and Wanderers will now focus their efforts back on their promotion push in League One, which continues with Saturday’s trip to Leyton Orient.
“Coming off the pitch their players were very complimentary about what we're doing and who we are and what we are as a team,” added Evatt.
“I've said to the players I'm so proud of them for what they've done tonight, but it means nothing unless we go and do it again on Saturday against Leyton Orient or we achieve our ambitions that season.
“If we play like that and replicate that performance as many times as possible from now for the rest of this season we will have no issues.
“I think that's a new level we found tonight, a new bar that has been set and for us it's about keeping pushing that bar upwards, keeping raising our standards and our work and hungriness to do better and if we can do that I'm very excited to work with this group of players.
“We've got a huge amount of focus as to what we want to do and achieve. It's great having top players and top coaches praises us a group and as a unit, but it means nothing if we don't go and replicate that performance on Saturday and moving forward as many times as we can for the rest of this season.”
Watch the manager's full post-match interview on Wanderers TV HERE