The looming concern for Bolton Wanderers and Ian Evatt: View | OneFootball

The looming concern for Bolton Wanderers and Ian Evatt: View | OneFootball

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Football League World

·1 March 2024

The looming concern for Bolton Wanderers and Ian Evatt: View

Article image:The looming concern for Bolton Wanderers and Ian Evatt: View

Highlights

  • Recent losses in Lancashire derbies place Bolton Wanderers under pressure, with fans questioning Evatt's decisions & performance.
  • Bolton's poor form against top sides is a concern for potential automatic promotion, as they face tough fixtures in the final 12 games.
  • To secure promotion, Wanderers must improve performances in crucial matches against stronger League One teams or risk missing out.

With 12 games of the season to go, Bolton Wanderers sit level on points with Derby County in second place and have a game-in-hand on the Rams as they both chase automatic promotion to the Championship.

That is, by any measure, a good effort and a good season so far in a strong position to kick on and get themselves back into the second-tier of English football for the first time since 2019.


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However, on the back of their 1-0 defeat at the DW Stadium against local rivals Wigan Athletic on Tuesday evening, the Trotters find themselves under enormous pressure with many supporters beginning to if not turn on manager Ian Evatt, heavily criticise and strongly question some of his decision-making.

There is a looming concern for both Evatt and Wanderers in that they face a tough run-in.

Underwhelming in Lancashire derbies

On Saturday, Bolton went a goal ahead at Bloomfield Road against Blackpool but were eventually thumped by four goals to one by the Seasiders, with captain Ricardo Santos red-carded in the second half, albeit that red was subsequently rescinded.

Their poor showing against historic rivals was followed up by yet another loss in a more modern-day rivalry as a toothless Wanderers side failed to break down a stubborn and organised Wigan Athletic side before Steven Humphrys scored a second-half winning goal.

That victory for Latics means that Bolton have failed to defeat their South Lancashire opponents in their last eight meetings, with the most recent Bolton win in that fixture in the FA Cup in January 2015 and the most recent league win coming in November 2014.

Those losses have put an end to the previously true fact that if Bolton had won all of their games in hand they would have been leading the league and they are now very much in the fight for second spot.

Article image:The looming concern for Bolton Wanderers and Ian Evatt: View

Since enjoying four successive victories over the Christmas and New Year schedule, Bolton have managed just five victories in 14 matches across all competitions with just four wins in their last ten games in League One.

A difficult run-in is a looming concern for Ian Evatt and Bolton Wanderers

That dodgy run of form could not have come at a worse time. Many believed the last couple of months have been filled with must-win fixtures against some of the weaker teams in the league as they now head into a 12-game stretch of extremely difficult fixtures.

Of their remaining 12 matches, half will be against the other sides in the top seven of League One and four of those six are on the road, too.

Finishing up at Peterborough United on the final day always seemed like it may well be a significant clash but even more so now, as Bolton get set for a seriously tough couple of months.

Last season, in ten games against the other teams that finished in the top six of League One, Bolton managed to pick up just three victories with two of those against Peterborough, who squeezed into the top six on the final day at the expense of Derby, who had previously collected four points from games against Bolton.

In the 2021/22 campaign, they managed just one win with three draws and eight defeats in 12 matches against the teams that finished in the top six.

In their automatic promotion season from League Two in 2020/21, Wanderers played 12 matches against the rest of the teams in the top seven. In those ten matches, they won four, drew two and lost six.

That record will be startling for Bolton supporters as they chase down a place in the top two and have to do against the better sides in League One for the most part. So far this season,

Bolton have played the rest of the top seven once. In those six matches, the Trotters have earned two victories with three draws and a defeat. Replicating that points tally of nine in the reverse fixtures will leave them on 75 with six other matches – meaning winning all of their other matches would still most likely not be enough for automatic promotion at the current rate.

Therefore, there has to be a major and immediate improvement in performances from Wanderers in ‘big’ games against the better sides or they will likely fall into the play-offs once again.

Article image:The looming concern for Bolton Wanderers and Ian Evatt: View

Wanderers rely on control, as they have done in previous ‘run-ins’ but the loss of Nathan Baxter and recent absence of Ricardo Santos has seen them lose that control, with no clean sheet in their last eight league games despite still having one of the better defensive records in the third-tier.

Bolton have finished previous seasons strongly, albeit with the need to grind their way to victory for the most part.

The concern for Wanderers now is that they head into the final 12 games of the season in poor form and that the performance level they've shown in recent weeks will surely not be enough to see them repeat past years and finish the campaign strongly.

That tough run-in is looming over Evatt and Bolton. It could cost them promotion, which would surely raise serious questions about the manager's future.

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