HEAD coach Steve Evans has re-affirmed his faith in Scott Wootton who still “has a big part to play” for Leeds United despite back to back defensive horror shows.
Wootton’s own goal was responsible for ending United’s FA Cup run in a 1-0 loss at Watford last month with Evans admitting the defender was reduced to tears at Vicarage Road and left “broken”.
Evans subsequently dropped the defender for the 1-1 draw with Fulham but Wootton, a centre-back by trade, was restored to the Whites team at right-back for Monday night’s clash at Brighton in which he conceded an 18th-minute penalty which led to home side’s first goal.
Leeds then capitulated and were 4-0 down 21 minutes later, with Wootton brought off at half-time.
Yet Evans has again leapt to the defence of the former Manchester United player who United’s coach insists could still be in contention to feature at home to Bolton tomorrow, if shaking off a minor foot injury that his interrupted his training.
“Scott is mentally fine,” said Evans, speaking at Friday morning’s press conference at Thorp Arch.
“He’s got a little abscess on the back of his heel which has not allowed him to train for a day or two.
“But mentally is fine.
“Penalties get given away every day but when it is on the back of a mistake and an own goal it tends to get probably highlighted again.
“But Scott has got a big part to play.
“He may not be involved tomorrow but that’s injury related.
“If the medical side can get him out to train then he, of course, is up for consideration.”
Evans suddenly has several options for the right-back berth with Gaetano Berardi’s return from a long-term ankle injury imminent, alongside the continued progress of Academy graduate Lewie Coyle.
Coyle, though, started Monday’s clash at Brighton as a right winger ahead of Wootton at right-back but Evans defended his team selection whilst also admitting Leeds looked stronger in defence once Coyle returned a defensive role in the second half.
Asked if United looked more solid at the back with Coyle at full-back, Evans admitted: “One hundred per cent. But we’ve seen Lewie come through the Academy and the people here that you speak to have seen him play in that position a number of times.
“I think for 20 minutes at the start of the first half, Lewie Coyle was excellent in that role and interestingly so did a number of peers in the team.
“But I thought he was also outstanding when he went to full-back in the second half.
“We’ve got a decent young player there and we have to be careful when we play him and when we don’t and put him in when it’s appropriate.
“When you are 4-0 down at half-time you always look back and think ‘I should have done something different’, of course you do.
“As a head coach, you can never ever allow for the type of individual errors that were made but I think the one thing you learn as a manager and I have always believed in it is that we can make mistakes, I make mistakes.
“We all make mistakes, it’s about how we learn from those mistakes and how we come together as a group.
“You watch 20 minutes of that first half at Brighton and I’d challenge you to go back and look at it and if you come back and tell me that you don’t think Lewie Coyle played well in the first 20 minutes then we will have different opinions on the game.
“But when you are losing 4-0 at half time then it doesn’t look an inspired decision.”