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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » Decision time: The choices facing Ian Evatt as Bolton prepare to face Salford

Decision time: The choices facing Ian Evatt as Bolton prepare to face Salford

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Having walked a diplomatic path after Saturday’s FA Cup defeat, Ian Evatt has some potentially season-defining choices to make in his next starting line-up.

Whether he thought twice after the outcry to his comments at Cambridge United, or he had genuinely not made up his mind on who the guilty parties were against Crewe, his post-match interview was untypically vague.

The one admission which stood out, however, was that changes to the team were necessary if the club is to steer itself back on course.

Only one team in the last 15 years has reached the play-offs or gained promotion having taken 10 points or fewer from their first 11 games.

Exeter City won three and lost eight of their fixtures at the start of the 2016/17 season but recovered to finish fifth in the regular season. Alas, they were beaten by Gary Bowyer’s Blackpool in the final, a Wembley-winning squad which also included Nathan Delfouneso.

With numbers already stacked against success, and a mood of dissatisfaction building steadily among the supporters, there is a great deal riding on the remaining 10 games of 2020, six of which are against sides currently in the top half of the table.

Though much of the discussion has centred on whether Evatt should keep faith with his young goalkeeper Billy Crellin during a spell of inconsistent individual form, it is also fair to say others the Bolton boss has issues in other areas of the pitch.

Whereas the back three has maintained a reasonable level of form in the last month – at least beyond the Halloween horror show at Leyton Orient – both wing-back slots have been problematic and key injuries have highlighted a lack of experience within the squad.

On the right, young Luton loanee Peter Kioso’s attacking qualities have masked over a few positional issues but with Gethin Jones still feeling his way back to full fitness, youngster Jak Hickman has even less Football League experience on which to draw.

On the left, Harry Brockbank’s hamstring injury left the way clear for Liam Gordon or Jamie Mascoll to stake their claim for a regular starting spot.

Like Kioso and Hickman, Gordon’s lack of experience at this level has shown, but Mascoll – who has started just twice since arriving on a free transfer – is still working his way up to full fitness having made just one other league start, whilst at Wycombe, in the last 12 months.

Antoni Sarcevic carried a back injury through last week but still came through the game against Crewe. The club captain was strongly linked with Friday night’s opponents Salford in the summer and is expected to start once again.

Who plays alongside him, however, is another hot topic of debate among the Bolton faithful. Tom White’s last couple of performances since he returned from injury have failed to inspire and Andy Tutte found himself dropped after his half-time substitution at Brisbane Road.

This weekend the pendulum may well fall the way of summer signing Brandon Comley to provide the defensive element in the middle of the park.

Much was expected of the former Colchester United ball-winner when he came to Bolton, in particular his impressive passing statistics which seemingly lent themselves to the patient style of play Evatt was looking to introduce.

The 24-year-old has not given a great account of himself thus far in a Bolton shirt but in a dressing room where villains have been turned into heroes and back again during the course of 11 games, anything should be considered possible.

Whether Wanderers double down on the attacking qualities of Ali Crawford and Ronan Darcy in the same side is another matter of conjecture. The pair have linked-up well and seem to have some natural chemistry on the pitch – but that could come at a defensive cost.

Up front, Nathan Delfouneso is likely to be reunited with Eoin Doyle in a front two which, for all Bolton’s problems, still looks among the best in the division.

Delfouneso has nudged his total up to five goals in recent weeks, and Doyle will hope he can pick up where he left off after sustaining a hamstring strain at Cambridge a few weeks ago.

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