WALES international Steve Evans is hoping the influence of Wrexham manager Brian Little will help him rediscover the form that marked his first year in the Football League last season.
The 28-year-old central defender met the new Racecourse boss only two days before last Sunday’s derby date with Chester City when the Dragons conceded a couple of sloppy goals in a 2-2 draw.
But a week on and looking forward to this afternoon’s trip to Rochdale, Evans wants the change at the helm to coincide with an upturn in his fortunes after an up-and-down spell under previous boss Brian Carey.
“I think part of the problem was the injury I suffered after making a flying start to pre-season,” said Evans yesterday.
“I probably came back a bit too soon, I was never really comfortable and possibly because of that my confidence took a bit of a knock. I had to take a step back and that meant I wasn’t getting a run of games, which is what every player wants.
“So it was great to come back from being with Wales and find myself in Sunday’s team.”
Last season’s Player of the Year said he had been impressed by Little’s determination to haul Wrexham away from the League Two relegation zone.
“It’s been going very well,” he added. “The gaffer knows what he wants and he has made sure that as players we all know the job we have to do.
“He has been working very hard with us on our shape because we gave away a couple of bad goals last week, although to be fair we showed a lot of spirit to twice come from behind and earn the draw.
“The result certainly reinforced our belief that we can get out of trouble and the aim now is to start putting together a few positive results.”
True to his word that he wanted players to make an impression on him, Little has added teenage striker Marc Williams and winger Josh Johnson to his squad today after the pair’s starring roles in a midweek Pontins League win at Morecambe.
Wales under-21 international Williams scored all his side’s goals in the 3-1 victory and Trinidadian Johnson also caught Little’s eye.
“Marc took his hat-trick well and Josh had a hand in all the goals,” said the Dragons boss. “They were outstanding on the night and because of that they have been given an opportunity to be part of tomorrow’s squad.”
Despite dangling the carrot, the stick is never far away with Little and he added: “I am enjoying working with all the players, but the bottom line is that we have to get results.
“I am trying to pass onto them those things I’ve learned over more than 25 years and it’s clear we have some players here who should be playing better than they are and we have some younger players who can develop and go on to play at a higher level.
“But it will be results that dictate what I do in the January transfer window and the players have to understand that. I have to find a team that gets us results on a regular basis.
“To be fair the players are working their socks off in training every day but it’s the results that will tell me if they are good enough to do the job I want from them.”
With the visit to Spotland the first of three consecutive away matches – followed by trips to Bury on Tuesday and Dagenham & Redbridge next weekend – the Racecourse boss expects to learn a lot more about his squad.
“A team at the top of the league would be thinking that three games away on the bounce is a hard task, but we are coming at them from the other end of the table,” he added.
“So it’s important that we replicate the performance we gave against Chester last weekend, no matter how difficult that was for some of the players.
“Everyone has to work hard, they have to be committed and they have to believe in what we are trying to do.
“There probably won’t be too many changes but the same requirements apply to those who don’t start the game.
“Over the course of the next eight days we cannot afford to play anyone who is less than 100% fit and I’d be surprised if we were able to field the same 11 in all three games.”
On today’s opposition, Little said: “They will be bright, lively and energetic and we have to match them in each of those areas. The key to what happens tomorrow is in how we stop the opposition playing and then how we take it on from there.”
l THE FAW Premier Cup quarter-final tie between Llanelli and Wrexham will be screened live by BBC2 Wales on Wednesday 9 January 2008.