Widespread expectation that Wanderers would be leading from the front this season was not always realistic but recent performances have suggested the young manager’s magic is working once again.
After squeezing past Stevenage and out-scrapping Southend and Mansfield in the mud, the first half of Tuesday night’s win against Scunthorpe United was the first time we have really seen Brand Evatt in full effect at the UniBol.
Barrow supporters may have recognised some of the patterns of play, the hugely effective counter-press and the dominance of possession which for a time left the in-form Iron struggling to catch their breath.
But Evatt freely admits his team is still a work in progress and for all their superiority in the first 45 minutes they only had a one-goal lead to show for it.
The manager who impressed from afar and created such a buzz when he came to Bolton in the summer insists he has not changed in the last eight months. The club around him, however, now looks in much better shape.
Evatt has largely kept his own counsel about problems he encountered with recruitment in his first few months. He freely admits, however, that the squad he has now is better-equipped to put his plan into practice.
“We still have the same principles and philosophy but we haven’t had the tools until now to be able to put the plan into action so far,” he told The Bolton News.
“Tuesday, especially first half, it looked like an Ian Evatt team. That is everything we worked on, everything we looked to do. I was really pleased with it.
“We have got better players in the building now that are able to do what we’re asking them to do.
“We haven’t cracked it. We’re only just starting to layer in finer detail of passing patterns, movement, rotation, which has been hard because there hasn’t been a lot of time on the training pitch but also the quality and the standard of player – especially early on – couldn’t really do what we were trying to do.”
Evatt led Barrow back into the Football League for the first time in 48 years last season, gaining praise from all quarters for their free-flowing football, but he admits it has not been easy to graft the same style on to Bolton immediately.
“It is difficult for managers to walk in and immediately implement a style overnight. It has to be with hard work on the training pitch,” he said.
“If you look at my results at Barrow, both seasons were awful starts, but we grew as the season went on. It is a similar pattern for it.
“We will be stronger for all this next year because we will know which players are fit for purpose and which are not, those we can replace with better and those we can’t. Also we have some foundations laid on the training pitch about the style we want.
“Right at this moment it’s about this group saying: ‘We have 16 games left, how far can we go?’ “This team is nowhere near where I think it can get to. We’re having good results but there is more to come and that is exciting for everyone.”
Rob Kelly has been appointed as caretaker manager at Barrow after the club dispensed with the services of Michael Jolley last week. That followed the departure of David Dunn in December.
Filling Evatt’s shoes has not been an easy task for the Cumbrians but he hopes the club can scramble for safety this season and lay some foundations back in the EFL.
On the managerial departures, he said: “I don’t think it’s that type of club and they want someone there long term and for whatever reason, things just haven’t worked out with the two previous managers.
“I think it’s a fantastic football club with great people and I genuinely wish them all the best. But now I’m here I’m Bolton’s manager and I’m trying to do the best I can to get us where I think we need to be.”