Kenny Jackett: Never write off Portsmouth’s Wembley hero Gareth Evans
Kenny Jackett hailed Gareth Evans and insisted: You can never write him off.
Pompey’s long-serving midfielder produced a man-of-the-match display in the Checktrade Trophy final – after initially dropped.
Evans made way for fit-again Ronan Curtis at Wembley against Sunderland.
Yet he appeared off the bench in the 56th minute to alter the course of the game and inspire a memorable victory.
Evans laid on Nathan Thompson’s 82nd-minute equaliser, while netted the opening penalty during the 5-4 shoot-out success.
And his manager was quick to acknowledge the fighting qualities of the Blues favourite.
Jackett said: ‘Generally it has not particularly worked when we haven’t had Ronan or Viv Solomon-Otabor down the left-hand side.
‘That was my reason for putting Ronan in there because it has given us balance.
‘But, to be fair to Gareth, he is a person and a player that you can never write off.
‘He’s a key player and I’m really delighted that within the last month he has signed a new contract. He will never let you down.
‘Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis have been big players this year, key players. Also in the role he (Evans) has played, at the moment I have favoured Pitman in recent games.
‘It’s a good comeback from Pitman to get back into the side in the number 10 position and he has just squeezed Gareth out.
‘But you are talking about a 60-game season so far and good substitutes are really, really important, which is what Gareth gave us.
‘He brought fresh energy when he came on, his work-rate was very, very good.
‘I felt on that left-hand side, with Lee Brown overlapping well, it gave us some good options.’
The recall of Curtis represented the sole team change ahead of Sunday’s final.
The Irishman had been declared fit after returning to training following his finger injury earlier in the week.
However, it was a low-key display from the winger, who had missed the previous three matches.
Jackett added: ‘Ronan maybe kept going inside when perhaps early in the game he could have gone on the outside.
‘A big part of his game is cutting in and shooting, but at times he does need to go outside. For him, though, I don’t think he was particularly bad.
‘Having said that, in the first-half it was hard to get a good service to our forwards.’