Ched Evans scored in open play for the first time since September and Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton says the striker is back to full fitness and back in the goals.
Besides a shoulder injury, Evans has had off-field issues and is taking legal action against a law firm in a bid to recoup millions of pounds in lost earnings.
Evans scored his seventh goal of the season in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Coventry. Although he scored a penalty in last month’s 4-0 win at Doncaster Rovers, the 29-year-old’s previous goal in open play was in the 2-1 win over Bradford in September.
Barton says he took a long-term view to look after Evans and is delighted the striker is back to full fitness.
Barton said: “There have been a few things rumbling on outside of football and in terms of his body. He has not been quite right.
“You have to take a long term view. It would have been easy for us to roll him out and ask him to take an injection but we don’t want to do that.
“We want to make sure he is there for the long term and I thought he was unlucky not to get a couple of goals.
“He just looked what he can be – a real handful.
“First half I thought he and Paddy Madden were slightly out in terms of positioning. We adjusted, spoke to them, and in the second half they were a thorn in Coventry’s back four.
“They brought Wes Burns and Conor McAleny into play and led the line superbly.”
Barton also praised groundsman Nick Hyndman, having complained the grass was too long for the previous home game against Walsall.
But Barton felt Tuesday’s playing surface was just what Town require to play their front-foot football.
He said: “Pleased to get back winning in the league. We had the draw against Walsall, when I didn’t think we were at our best.
“If you notice the pitch is remarkably shorter than it was. I did criticise the groundsman, so I must give him massive credit for preparing the playing surface as it is because that is how we need it.
“It also suited them because they have some pace and trickery. It made for an entertaining game.”