Bolton Wanderers manager Ian Evatt has urged his side to find a “nasty edge” following their derby day defeat against Wigan Athletic at the weekend, in quotes provided to The Bolton News.
After a turbulent few years at club, Bolton have gone into the 2023/24 season with many tipping The Whites for a return to The Championship for the first time since 2019. Since this, The Wanderers have undergone administration, points deductions, promotion from League Two and play-off heart break in the third tier.
Bolton have been amongst the leading pack in the early stages of the season, starting with three consecutive victories over Lincoln City, Cheltenham Town and Fleetwood town, finding the net three times in each game. However, Ian Evatt’s side were defeated for the first time this season at the hands of their local rivals.
Wigan continued their unbeaten start to the season with Charlie Wyke and Stephen Humphrys both scoring braces to knock their Lancashire rivals off the top of the table.
The Whites now find themselves joint top with four other sides all separated by goal difference, missing a chance to separate themselves at the top of the table. This has lead to their coach raising concern over his team’s effectiveness against physical and direct opposition, as well as the overall mentality of the squad if they are to raise a serious bid for the League One title.
What has been said?
In an interview with The Bolton News, Evatt stated:
“I know this group of players better than anyone else, and sometimes the reason I say things to you guys in the press publicly and other stuff behind the scenes is because I know the type of group we have got.
“They are really nice lads, an honest bunch of players, but they struggle to drive standards and find that horrible, nasty edge. That goes for the games we have played this season as well because when we have gone 3-0 up we just haven’t had that killer mindset to go again and put teams to the sword.
“I tried to drum that up in them. I wanted to build the game up so that physically and mentally they were ready to challenge in a derby, win duels, first contacts and second balls but we didn’t do any of that.
“It looked to me like we just thought we could turn up, impose our style on them, they would find it difficult to cope and we’d just take over and blow them away. Well, no, it is not that easy. There are times when you are going to get punched on the chin and you have to get up and recover to go again.
“As a group it is something that we need to improve on. I don’t think it is anything technical, tactical or physical, it is between the ears. For us to compete at the top end of this league – which is where everyone intends – we have to improve with that.”
The quality Bolton possess in their squad is clear to see; however, a side hoping to get out of League One will need the correct approach alongside the right mentality in order to cope with the more direct and physical opposition. Ian Evatt is right to raise this concern, he is an excellent coach and I have no doubt that he and his squad will resolve this.
It will be very interesting to see how they respond this week, as they prepare to come up against a physical Burton Albion side that are currently winless with a point to prove. Can they respond quickly?