Ian Evatt’s hand may have been forced by the timing of tonight’s final EFL Trophy group game – but the Bolton boss does not expect his much-changed side to allow standards to drop.
Though Wanderers will be without several players sat Stockport County as they close out the opening round of the competition with their place in the knockout stage already confirmed, Evatt feels some of his players can use the game to their advantage.
The likes of Jack Iredale, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Joel Coleman, Aaron Morley, Dan Nlundulu and Cameron Jerome have all featured more as substitutes than starters in the league this season and the Bolton boss feels this could be the ideal occasion to present their case.
A handful of the B Team youngsters, including Luke Matheson, will also have the chance to put themselves in Evatt’s eye-line at closer range, which adds a level of interest to what is otherwise a relatively routine fixture.
“There are a few players who should be looking at this game and thinking this is their opportunity to show me they are ready to play,” he told The Bolton News.
“Some of them will also get that chance to show me where they are in terms of their own development and career. There will be some of the young players involved, along with some players who have not played regularly over the last few weeks but who have, historically.
“I have no doubt their attitude will be spot on. I know any team I put out there will be competitive.
“I know they are on a really good run and it is good that both teams are through, so we can probably go there feeling a little more relaxed and enjoy the game.”
Stockport’s form could hardly be better, with 13 straight wins in all competitions, stretching back to the first week in September. Dave Challinor’s side has ambition to return to League One level for the first time since 2010 and are currently ahead of Wrexham, Mansfield, Crewe and Notts County at the top of the table.
The Hatters made 10 changes from the previous league game in their last EFL Trophy outing at Salford but Evatt - who will watch the games from the stands after picking up a third yellow card of the season on Saturday - expects the winning mentality to have spread through the whole squad.
“I would think their attitude is very much like ours, in that they want to win every game they play,” he said.
“Also, the league is their bread and butter. It is going very well for them at the moment – and it is going pretty well for us too, by the way. But progression in this competition is a positive thing for both clubs, and we’re both qualified for the next round, so I do think it will be a good game with the right intensity and attitude.”