Over the last decade at Wanderers we have heard plenty of similar flannel: Next year things will be better, stay patient and the wins will come, this situation cannot be allowed to happen again.
Those statements fell flat, one by one, and the club sunk slowly to where it lies now – 21st in League Two, the lowest position in its 143-year history.
Requests for patience and faith continue to be made: “We will improve, we will be a force to be reckoned with in League Two, this is will win more than it loses.”
Wanderers’ cab is still ‘just pulling on to Burnden Way.’ The man making them, head coach Ian Evatt, certainly believes his words to be true. His steadfast conviction in his coaching methods and the quality of the players he and head of football operations, Tobias Phoenix, recruited in the summer has not altered one bit despite walking off the pitch at Colchester as the first Bolton manager in history to lose his first four games.
Those stats, says Evatt, do no bother him. And nor should they. Should he succeed in his mission to get Wanderers back into League One at the first time of asking, nobody will give a hoot that his team were beaten by Crewe in the EFL Trophy.
Should he fail, the consequences are barely worth thinking about. And Bolton fans should be crossing any available digits in the hope that Evatt can find a winning formula – just as he did at Barrow last season following a slow start – sooner, rather than later.
Evatt underlined the point several times in his post-match interview that this was the best performance his players had put in since he joined the club, and were you to remove the glaring errors which led to both Colchester goals, it is hard to disagree.
A formation tweak placed more attacking onus on the full-backs and midfielders, as opposed to the centre-halves, and it is entirely right to say Bolton played some good football in patches, particularly during the first half.
They also created some clear-cut chances. The best fell to Ali Crawford and Eoin Doyle, two pedigree players who should really have taken full advantage. But Wanderers appear unable to give themselves any breathing space right now, which magnifies any errors which happen at the other end.
After 43 minutes of bright and breezy football the score remained goalless. Yes, Bolton had not put a shot on target but the tone of Evatt’s half-time team-talk would have been one of encouragement rather than repair.
The man he replaced in the job, Keith Hill, referred to the five minutes either side of the interval as the “red zones” – the time that concentration is often at its lowest. Even though he knew the dangers, he struggled to keep his players on point and goals out of the net, and Wanderers’ current incarnation has suffered exactly the same issues in their last two league games.
One flat corner from Cohen Bramall, flicked on by Tommy Smith, found its way to Tom Eastman – standing unmarked and four yards from goal. You can guess the rest.
Santos took one conciliatory step towards Eastman as he watched the ball float over but knew exactly what his momentary switch-off had done.
Colchester, like Forest Green before them, had not played especially well but still been able to put Wanderers into a losing position.
The reaction after the break was reasonable. Nathan Delfouneso ran at defenders with purpose and the right-wing combination of Gethin Jones and Jak Hickman worked well all afternoon.
As the pressure was concentrated more and more on the Colchester penalty box, Wanderers sensed an equaliser was there for the taking. Doyle should have provided it – the Irishman having waited more than an hour for a chance to drop when the ball was worked to him on the edge of the box. His scuffed shot, aimed straight at Dean Gerken, needed to be better.
Evatt may have been content to let things develop for the last 20 minutes but Colchester grabbed a second when a long ball from the back caught Alex Baptiste flat, and Billy Crellin out of position. Jevani Brown did not need a second invitation to lob the keeper, stranded helplessly on the corner of the penalty box.
Colchester, now looking buoyant, may have grabbed another before the end. Brown got the wrong side of Santos and dropped another lob the wrong side of the post.
Evatt threw on youngster Finlay Lockett and Jamie Mascoll in the latter stages as Hickman and Delfouneso tired – but the tempo had long since dropped from the game, allowing the home side coast home relatively easily.
The Romans constructed Colchester as their provincial capital, the first settlement in Britain to be built from bricks and mortar. In AD 50 it was known as Colonia Victricensis – or 'the City of Victory'.
An apt place, perhaps, for Evatt to feel he has built proper foundations. Although it was a hard sell to those watching 250 miles away from their laptops, or listening on the radio, he must build quickly on the positive aspects of the performance.
Wanderers have invested wholesale into the Evatt project. The new boss has every right to ask for the fans’ backing now and to judge his performance much further down the line.
These are strange times indeed to be a football supporter – but Evatt need not waste time trying to convince them that better times ahead.
The taxi is coming, it is just a little bit late.
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