Bolton Wanderers boss Ian Evatt on facing Gillingham, play-off hopes & March fixture schedule

Bolton Wanderers start their March fixture list with a long trip to take on Gillingham this weekend.

Wanderers make the long journey down to Kent to take on the Gills at Priestfield and are seeking to return to winning ways after their loss last time out at the hands of MK Dons.

The Whites will be without vice-captain Gethin Jones for the clash owing to the death of his mother Karen and the Wanderers defender will be given as much time as he needs to process the loss.

READMORE:Bolton Wanderers injury update on Elias Kachunga as Gethin Jones decision made for Gillingham

Bolton will be seeking to narrow the gap to the League One play-offs which currently stands at eight points, while the Gills will be aiming to continue to give their survival hopes another boost.

Ahead of the game, Wanderers boss Ian Evatt spoke to the press and here’s a transcript of what he had to say to broadcasters.

It’s been a sad week, particularly for Gethin Jones?

“Awful news. I’ve said this a few times since I’ve been here and once one of us is hurting, we’re all hurting. It’s an absolute tragedy for him and for his family of him.

“She was a wonderful woman and the whole Bolton Wanderers family are very sad and our condolences to him, to his dad Gareth and to the rest of his family.”

In any circumstance, it’s difficult for anybody?

“It’s hugely difficult and just a sense of perspective with everything that has gone on in the world really this last week.

“We’re all very, very sad and Gethin will obviously be missing on Saturday and we’re going to give him as much time as he needs. There’s no pressure. Some things are bigger than football. This is certainly that and we’re all here to support him.”

Everybody is aware of what’s happening elsewhere. Does that affect the football family overall?

“Some things are bigger than football and I think we’re all glued to the news and just can’t believe what we’re seeing in 2022. We’ve all got grandparents and great-grandparents or have had them and we’ve heard stories, but to see it true to life and it happening close to where we are in Europe is very, very scary and we hope we can find peace in that situation sooner rather than later.”

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You’ve got Gillingham at the weekend, what’s the injury situation?

“We’re okay actually. Kacha has trained fully for the first time today, so he’s back now. Saturday is probably going to be too soon for him but it’s another body and another option. I have trained really well this morning.

“Everyone else is okay and ready to go. It’s just Gethin missing and we will recall Adam Senior for some more defensive cover on the basis that we’re not going to put Gethin under any type of pressure to come back to work.”

In terms of the preparation, you’ll be used to this and there’s no margin for error?

“There is a little bit, but not much! We were very disappointed with how the game panned out on Saturday. I don’t think we did ourselves justice.

“Strangely looking at the data and the stats we actually had more possession than them and felt like we were going to get back in the game, but we haven’t given the game to somebody for a long, long time and I think we did that on Saturday, so we have to put that right this weekend.

“We want to bounce back but it’s going to be a tough game. They’ve picked up since Neil Harris has gone in there and they’re fighting for their lives so we’re expecting a real tough one.”

If you look at the fixture list, is March a particularly defining month?

“We said that about February! To be honest we’re just happy to still be in with some sort of shout and that’s all it is. We’ve got lots of hard work to do.

“This is a big month obviously and if we can get a result there and then we’ve got two home games to come. Our home form is really good at the moment, so hopefully we can get back to winning ways and then look ahead to a big month coming up, but we’re not underestimating Gillingham, we know it’s going to be really challenging.”

How has this week been with having no midweek fixture?

“It’s been nice to be able to breathe! We’ve had such a hectic schedule and it’s actually been really good getting the lads on the grass again and it’s really highlighted to me that we’re not as fluid as I want us to be.

“We’ve got some good results and some excellent performances and some big, big victories, but some of our in possession detail has left us a little bit and with the new players, we’re coaching and teaching them all the time as well , there’s so much work to improve on, especially in this system.

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“We haven’t really done much at all in possession on this system. We’ve worked very hard on Tuesday and on Thursday in particular and the players have been receptive to that and they’ve enjoyed some of the work and we’re looking forward to keep improving.

“Next week we’ve got a Tuesday fixture again, but this has given us some sort of opportunity to look at some more detail especially in possession, and start working on how we can affect the game more in this system.”

How do you refine the little details to make yourselves more fluid?

“On Saturday (vs MK Dons) we just didn’t trust each other on the ball enough. I think we played too long at times and too direct when it was on to pass into midfield or to pass to an opposite center back joining in and too often, because we’ve got two upfront, we were tending to make the game a bit too transitional and I find when Dapo dosen’t play or Sads or someone when we play that extra midfield player, we don’t carry the same threat and I felt second half, once we changed it a little bit, we had more of the ball, we had more possession and we started to create more opportunities.

“I think the goal was coming and we’d just made the subs when we gave the game to them with a silly error, but lots to work on, lots to improve on and I’ve seen improvements this week and I’m hoping to see it come to fruition on Saturday.”

Would it be fair to say the result was a tiny bit of a damp squib after what had been a relatively successful February on the whole?

“If relative is winning eight out of 10 and drawing one then I’d like to see what a good month of yours is! Relatively it was okay, we’ve just got lots of work to do.

“We know what we have to do. It’s going to be tough and it might not happen but we’re going to give it our best shot.”

Now we’re in March and with fewer games, does that mean the onus is on the players, particularly the newer ones, to deliver?

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“They all have to deliver, that’s just the nature of the industry. It’s a results-based business and we need results, we want results. We’re playing a chasing game and there’s not much margin for error, but we believe in our players, we think we’ve done some really good business.

“There’s people returning from injury all the time and there’s lots of improvement to come so they’re in a good place, we know we can do more and give more and I know we can perform better than we have done, even though the run we’ve been on and in that we’ve beat Sunderland by six, Wimbledon by four and had some other good results as well, there is more to come from this group.”

Gillingham have picked up since Neil Harris came in and they’re fighting to stay in this division – how tough is it going to be for Bolton to have to compete at their place?

“First and foremost when you’re going to Gillingham, you have to compete. It is about the right mindset and mentality and competing and winning your duels and your individual battles, but then we have to be us. We cannot get embroiled with the atmosphere and anything else.

“We have to play the game our way and make them fight our fight and if we do that, then I believe we can get the right result, but it’s that switch from pressing the ball and hunting the ball to then being cool, calm and composed in possession.I don’t want to see the game transitional, I want us to dominate the game with the ball, control the game with the ball and then make sure we penetrate where we can.

“The first goal in most games is vital. I don’t know the record but it’s exceptional I think when we’ve scored the first goal so it becomes vital that we start the game well and we do get that first goal and then we can go on to control it. If they do get the first goal, it’s going to be difficult for us.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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