Ian Evatt reckons Wanderers’ eye-catching win at Lincoln City was a perfect illustration of the competition in his squad.
The Whites made League One sit up and take notice as Antoni Sarcevic’s 77th minute strike sunk last season’s beaten play-off finalists.
And the result was made all the more impressive when you factor in the defensive reshuffle prior to kick-off, as Liam Gordon came in for his first league start since November and George Johnston was swapped for the rested Alex Baptiste.
Evatt’s defensive ranks were hit hard by Covid absences in the summer and many of the players are still short of match fitness.
Likewise, Amadou Bakayoko’s injury in the first half presented an opportunity for Lloyd Isgrove and the late swap of a tiring Eoin Doyle for new signing Elias Kachunga – himself still playing catch-up on fitness – helped create the winning goal.
“To be honest, that’s how competitive the squad is,” Evatt said. “Alex Baptiste has been fantastic in the games he’s played this season. I rested him and left him out tonight and I thought the two centre backs were outstanding.
“Liam Gordon comes in for Declan (John) and was outstanding.
“Izzy and Kacha have had to wait for their chance. Nathan (Delfouneso) has not even been on the bench, so we have got strength in depth.
“Having said that, I’d like to have those decisions, I’d like to keep them all on the pitch, but needs must and I’m really proud of everybody tonight.”
Gordon’s return to the team after spending more than half of last season out on loan at Dagenham and Redbridge in the National League was a successful one.
“It was huge,” Evatt said. “He has applied himself in pre-season and done great. He went out on loan last season and applied himself properly, learned from the experience. Ronan Darcy and Dennis Politic have just done the same.
“Liam came back from loan a better player and he took his chance.”
Evatt said he never considered trying to protect a point by bringing on a defensive option in the closing stages, choosing instead to bring Kachunga on for Doyle.
“That’s why I make attacking subs because a) I want to keep pressure on the ball high up the pitch when people are fatiguing, but b) to I want to try and win the game.
“We are Bolton Wanderers, we don’t go anywhere to draw. It is as simple as that. We try to win every game we play.”
Evatt held a team meeting on Monday to go over some of the issues he noticed during Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Wimbledon.
“I can’t speak highly enough of them all because we gave them a lot of information yesterday and we wanted to have more control,” he said.
“We wanted to be better from goal kick situations, from throw in situations and it was all about certain positioning and applying themselves and being brave to receive the ball in tight areas and I thought we did that great tonight.
“They (Lincoln) are a very good team, I really respect the manager. There are lots of similarities in the team, but I thought tonight we were the better team.”