Bolton Wanderers have captured the imagination of neutral Football League fans in the early knockings of the 2021/22 season with their free-scoring brand of attacking football.
The Trotters deployed a very youthful defence in their outstanding 5-2 win at Ipswich Town last Saturday and manager Ian Evatt was keen to point out how well they performed, in his pre-match press conference – quotes provided by The Bolton News.
He said: “That has gone under the radar, hasn’t it? The back four that played at Ipswich – 21, 22, 25, 25 – it is very young, very inexperienced in many ways.”
Evatt paid tribute to some fringe players and some of his backroom staff for the way the younger defenders have been able to hit the ground running this season.
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Across the 46-game this season you have to have more than just a strong starting XI to succeed in the Football League and with Bolton flirting with the automatic promotion spots at the start of this campaign, Wanderers supporters will be desperate for the team to harness this momentum and prolong their stay towards the top end.
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Evatt continued: “I have said to George (Johnston) that he is very fortunate that he has Alex Baptiste, Sam Hird and Peter Atherton, who were not the biggest centre-backs but they were good players who knew how to use their body, to play to their strengths and hide their deficiencies. He is learning all the time with that.”
The Trotters host Rotherham United on Saturday looking to ruffle the feathers of another side fancied for promotion.
Bolton have clearly struck an effective balance with their squad building this summer and are reaping the rewards for that in the opening stretch. Oladapo Afolayan and Josh Sheehan have taken the headlines, and rightly so, for their performances but senior players setting the tone on the training ground and in the dressing room can be just as crucial.
Ensuring that the side remain focused on pushing on and competing higher in the division than many would have been expecting, rather than regressing back to the levels they produced in a poor first half of the 2020/21 season.