Bolton Wanderers: Ian Evatt has to solve big issue ahead of Wembley date with Oxford


  • Bolton Wanderers need to address complacency.
  • Wanderers tend to switch off when feeling comfortable.
  • Staying focused is key as they head to Wembley for the play-off final.

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On Tuesday evening, Bolton Wanderers booked their spot at Wembley Stadium for the League One play-off final with a 5-4 aggregate victory over Barnsley.

At half-time of the second-leg at the Toughsheet Community Stadium, Wanderers had a three-goal advantage and were seemingly cruising down to north London but, as ever, things became quite tricky in the second-half but they eventually, just about, got themselves over the line.

The concern will be, though, as they make the trip down south for a second successive season after winning the EFL Trophy last year, complacency is their greatest enemy and that is something players and even the manager have either openly discussed or hinted at this season.

So, with one game to go to reach the second-tier for the first time since 2019, it is pretty clear exactly what needs to be worked upon ahead of the play-off final, which will be against Oxford United after the Yellows’ 2-1 aggregate win over Peterborough United in the other semi-final.

League One Play-Off Results 2023/24


Score (Aggregate)


Barnsley 1-3 Bolton


Oxford 1-0 Peterborough


Bolton 2-3 Barnsley (5-4)


Peterborough 1-1 Oxford (1-2)

Bolton appear to need ‘an edge’ in games

In recent weeks, there has been a clear focusing of minds at Bolton Wanderers and when their minds are very much ‘on it’, they have been able to simply sweep teams aside – if not for a full game but even that falls into the narrative that they are complacent.

For example, when it became clear that only a Wanderers win, a Derby County loss and a four-goal swing on the final day of the season would be enough to see Bolton gain automatic promotion, they came out firing. They raced into a 2-0 lead inside eight minutes because that is the exact job they needed to do.

Once it was learned Derby had already gone ahead against Carlisle United at Pride Park and were doing their own job, Ian Evatt discussed how it deflated the dressing room and Bolton eventually fell 3-2 behind before salvaging a point. The fact their performance was based upon the result of another game and what they needed to do, rather than just complete overriding self-worth and motivation, would be a worry.

Once again, in the play-off semi-final with Barnsley, they went to Oakwell knowing they had to come away with a result, and they were excellent for 70 minutes, comfortably leading by two goals to nil. A mini wobble saw Barnsley claw a goal back before Wanderers did get a relieving third goal in stoppage-time.

In the return leg, with a 3-1 lead, they found themselves behind just before half-time but, when they needed to, sprung into action and turned the game on its head to lead 5-2 on aggregate.

That three-goal cushion, once again, allowed them to just switch off and take liberties in possession that perhaps they would not be guilty of had it been a closer affair. They eventually held on to a 5-4 aggregate victory but the signs of being caught out when feeling comfortable were and are very much there.

Complacency is key for Bolton

Copy of FLW 169 IMAGE (10)-4

Prior to the final day of the campaign, Bolton defender Josh Dacres-Cogley claimed Bolton should already be up based on the quality of their players and their absolute best performances, but the former Birmingham City and Tranmere Rovers man did accept that ‘complacency’ had probably been an issue.

At Wembley Stadium, there is no hiding place. Wanderers can’t rely on others slipping up, can’t rely on doing it in the play-off semi-finals, can’t rely on coasting in a second-leg – they simply must remain ‘on it’ for the full match.

Last season, when it was a final at Wembley, Bolton wiped the floor with eventual League One champions Plymouth Argyle by four goals to nil to win the EFL Trophy.

There is therefore a belief that perhaps a one-off game does suit the Trotters and their wandering mentality. Avoiding any complacency will be key as they face a team that they thrashed 5-0 in March and ended up finishing ten points above in the regular season.

If Bolton can keep themselves on it across one more 90-minute period in 2023/24, they will be toasting Championship football once more.

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