Bolton Wanderers boss Ian Evatt admitted last night’s victory over Accrington Stanley to reach the Papa Johns Trophy Final was the first time he felt “pressure” to deliver as the Trotters booked their place at Wembley.
Wanderers struck late in the second period, with goals from Elias Kachunga and Aaron Morley, to secure a 2-0 win the Semi-Final at the Wham Stadium.
“This is probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my career,” he explained. “This is the first time I’ve felt a bit of pressure because I wanted it so much for so many people.
“When you’re a player you’re out there you can affect things. When you’re a manager it’s completely different.
“I’m so proud of so many people. We really deserve this as a Football Club. I’m delighted we’ve managed to do it. It’s not probably sunk in yet, but I’ll have a beer or two and a smile.”
Evatt’s side will face off against Sky Bet League One rivals Plymouth Argyle in the Final at the National Stadium, after the Pilgrims saw off Cheltenham Town on Tuesday night to become the first team to advance to Wembley.
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— Papa Johns Trophy (@PapaJohnsTrophy) February 22, 2023
But for the Wanderers boss, the focus is on his squad, who he believed earned their place in the Final.
An impressive 2,625 travelling Trotters fans made the trip across to Lancashire yesterday evening, and Evatt also dedicated the win to the Club’s fanbase.
“For the players, I thought they deserve a big day out at Wembley,” Evatt continued. “They’re a great group. They’re so together. The injured ones were here, the lads who have joined us on loan.
“Most importantly, the fans. They’ve been through so much and now, to have a Wembley cup final is something to be incredibly proud of.
The visitors went close on a number of occasions, with in-form Dion Charles rattling the post and then the bar in quick succession, but Wanderers eventually got their breakthrough in the final 10 minutes when Kachunga rippled the net.
“Even when we hit the bar and the post, I did think the goals would come. I don’t think we’re the type of team you want to go down to 10 against because we ask questions and we move the ball,” he added.
“The first goal was huge. Massive mention to Kacha. I said to him I’m so proud of him because he’s been through so much. Sometimes how you come through adversity really defines who you are as a person and he’s a fantastic person and he really deserves that.”
And Morley all but sealed passage through to the Final with yet another signature wonder strike.
“He’s capable, isn’t he?” Evatt said. “He’s got those finishes in his locker. We spoke about not having to get into the box as much and preparing shots from the edge. It’s great that he did that with the second one.”
The Papa Johns Trophy Final will take place on Sunday 2 April at Wembley Stadium when Bolton lock horns with Plymouth for a chance to lift the trophy.