Lancashire passions will be high this afternoon as Wanderers look to break back into the automatic promotion spots in League One – but Ian Evatt is backing his players to keep their heads in the game.
There is no shortage of emotional backstory at the Toughsheet as players like George Thomason and Dion Charles are reunited with the club that released them youngsters, and Evatt himself faces a team he represented as a player for eight years, once helping them to the Premier League.
But with Bolton on a five-game winning streak in all competitions the Whites boss is looking to his players to stick to the principles which put them right back in contention at the top of the table.
“It is just down to consistency, and if we perform consistently to the level, I believe we should be at then you are going to win games,” he said. “We have done that for the past month, or so.
“There have been slip-ups, but it is how you react to those slip-ups that makes us who we are. We have always tended to respond in the right way, and we did against Carlisle.
“But now, when you get on these runs, you have to fight tooth and nail to stay on them. Every game becomes harder, and you are not flying under the radar anymore.
“We have to embrace the challenge and work hard to stay where we are.”
Wanderers have a chance to equal their best sequence of results under Evatt and potentially move above Oxford United into the top two, should things go their way this afternoon.
Recent wins against Shrewsbury, Charlton and Wycombe have hinted at a tougher, more resilient attitude in the Bolton squad, and it is by remembering the ‘basics’ that the Bolton boss feels his team can triumph.
“The line between confidence and complacency is extremely thin,” he said. “To get confidence takes weeks but it can go in an instant, so we need to work out what gives us that confidence and what the foundations are to make us perform in that way. That is no different to any club – hard work, desire, first contact, second balls, headers, defend your box, all these things, then add some of the nicer and prettier stuff as well.”
Both Thomason and Charles were released before making a first team appearance at Bloomfield Road, eventually finding their way back to the professional game via the non-league.
And Evatt accepts that past histories will add a touch more spice to what will already be a hard-fought North West derby.
“It will be interesting, that’s for sure,” he said. “There are a few of us – Gillo was there for a long while, Matt Craddock was there as well, lots of connections. And the majority of us have fond memories.
“It does mean something more, there is no point denying it.
“The club will always have a special significance in my mind, it was an unbelievable period of my life in football. A great team spirit, a great culture and togetherness, we created some great memories.
“But from my point of view there is a lot of respect there, we wish them all the best, just not on Saturday.”