THEY may be bruised and battered, but Ian Evatt wants his Wanderers to come out from their corner swinging punches when they host Cheltenham Town tomorrow.
Down to a last dozen fit senior players, the Bolton boss may have to patch up old warrior Alex Baptiste ahead of schedule to fill his matchday squad at the UniBol, despite the defender damaging knee ligaments a fortnight ago.
Xavier Amaechi also knocked on Evatt’s door on Thursday to say he is ready to start, if needed, despite having played just an hour of football since his return from a broken foot.
Despite feeling down on their luck, the Whites produced a stellar performance against Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night to claim three points, and Evatt believes the misfortune his team has suffered in the last couple of weeks could actually steel his players for the challenges ahead.
“Sometimes you need a bit of adversity to see the real strength of character and I have been crying out for some of the lads to step up to that plate and become leaders,” he told The Bolton News.
“I think we are seeing that with Elias Kachunga. I think the same with Ricardo Santos, he is growing into the captaincy.
“Will Aimson has come into the team and done really well, there are stories right across the board that have done really well.
“For now, we need to batten down the hatches, stick together as a group and keep fighting.”
Wanderers start the day a point behind Cheltenham, who beat Gillingham 2-0 in midweek to continue their fine start to the season after promotion from League Two.
Evatt admits he is fortunate to bank on a second successive home game, and the supportive atmosphere It is likely to bring.
“As a football club you go through challenging times and this one has been through plenty in recent times. I mean, they nearly lost the whole club,” he said.
“We had the lows of how last season started, then the highs of how it finished.
“We need everyone to pull in the same direction because it is going to be tough. We will have some difficult moments before January, hopefully some good ones as well. But if we stick together than in January we can get people back, strengthen the team, and we will kick on again.
“I am sat here sulking, 11th in League One. It isn’t the end of the world.”
Wanderers have drafted in several members of the youth team to make up the numbers in training this week, and depending on whether Baptiste can pull through, at least one new name is likely to be added to Arran Pettifer and Mitchell Henry on the bench.
“Every tackle that goes in, every time someone goes down, I cover my eyes,” Evatt joked.
“Every time Mat Barrass rings me I try and avoid it as best as I can.
“There is nothing we can do other than puff your chest out, keep your chin up and try to keep smiling.”