SHEFFIELD United’s Danny Wilson expressed fears after this FA Cup tie that Ched Evans could be lured away from Bramall Lane before the end of the transfer window but, intriguingly, did not rule out the possibility of his most prized asset committing himself to the club.
Having wreaked havoc among some of League One’s sturdiest defences this term, it was almost inevitable the Wales international would claim his latest goal against opponents plying their trade over 80 places below Wilson’s side in the footballing pyramid.
Evans’ long-term future, however, remains shrouded in doubt, although his manager is understandably keen to retain the services of a striker who has now scored 17 times in only 16 starts.
“We’ve not had anything worth listening to and there’s nothing to suggest he will go,” Wilson said. “But I’ve just got this sneaky feeling that someone will hit us with something right at the end of the window. Ched is out of contract this summer but that, from our perspective, doesn’t really change anything.
“Of course I’d like to keep him, no-one will be surprised to hear me say that, and if we do reach the Championship, then that puts us in a better position and, you never know, he might stay longer.
“If we don’t go up then the answer is ‘no, he won’t be here’ because I’m sure the lad wants to play at a higher level than the one he’s at now. But if we do go up then there’s a chance.”
Wilson used his programme notes to describe Salisbury City manager Darrell Clarke, who played under the former Northern Ireland international at Hartlepool, as “one of the funniest lads I have met in the game”.
Performing with a steely determination as well as a smile, Salisbury made United wait until Evans deflected Kevin McDonald’s shot into Mark Scott’s net with only a third of the contest remaining before their progress was effectively confirmed.
Scott, beaten by Chris Porter during the early exchanges, cruelly conceded again when Danny Webb inadvertently turned home Evans’ cross during the closing stages.
But he epitomised the spirit which had seen Salisbury reach the third round for the first time in their history by producing a series of superb saves despite receiving some worrying news before kick-off.
“Mark won’t mind me saying, but his father is seriously ill in hospital and it was touch and go whether he’d even be involved here,” Clarke revealed afterwards. “He’s a smashing young lad and he showed great character out there. He’ll have made his dad very, very proud.”
A late effort from substitute Lloyd Macklin, who worked with Wilson at Swindon, ensured the Blue Square South side’s efforts received some reward.
In normal circumstances, Evans’ prolific form would already have attracted a series of tempting invitations to move elsewhere.
But with some well-documented issues casting a shadow over his own personal life, it remains far from certain that any of Evans’ admirers will be tempted to pursue their interest until those matters are resolved.
Indeed Wilson, whose side entertain Yeovil Town tomorrow, has raised the possibility in recent weeks that the £3 million signing from Manchester City might elect to honour the final months of his contract even in the event of a bid being received.
“The club isn’t going to have any easy decisions to make,” Wilson acknowledged. “The owners have put an awful lot of money in and so if I lose players and I’m not happy about it then so be it.
“But those decisions might be slightly easier if we are in and around the top of the division.”
United went about their business here with the same professionalism.
Johannes Ertl and Ryan Flynn both went close before Scott acrobatically denied Porter after the United centre-forward had pounced with Evans doubling the lead following a scramble in the box.
“The second goal killed us,” Clarke said. “But I’m so proud of the boys and what they’ve achieved.
“Naturally we are disappointed to go out but this was our Wembley.”