IAN Evatt is backing Ricardo Santos to keep the critics at bay.

The big defender came under heavy fire at the start of the season after Wanderers’ winless start but has since bounced back with two solid performances against Harrogate and Grimsby.

Signed from Barnet on a free transfer in the summer the Portugal-born centre-back is one of only three players to play every minute in League Two this season, alongside Billy Crellin and Eoin Doyle.

Evatt says he never considered dropping Santos after his earlier errors – and the head coach believes he is now starting to realise his potential.

“I believe in him and he knows that. In spite of all the criticism – and that is part of football, you have to take it on the chin. You can’t please everyone all of the time,” he said.

“There’s huge expectation at this football club but we need to forget about it and concentrate on what we are trying to do.

“Rico has shown that and I think he’s now showing himself to be the kind of player I see in training and the sort of player I saw before he came to the club.”

Evatt hopes the draw against Grimsby does not affect his side’s momentum too badly as they prepare for the visit of Oldham Athletic this weekend.

Hopes were high that the victory against Harrogate would mark the ‘lift-off’ moment for Bolton in League Two but despite keeping their first clean sheet of the campaign, the result did leave a sour taste in the mouth of all involved.

“I think this week in general has been positive,” Evatt said. “We had a positive result at Harrogate and a positive performance instead of a result from the young players on Tuesday. And we have another point. “However, I do feel it was two dropped. I do feel they were there for the taking.

“I am happy with the clean sheet, less so with some of our attacking quality on the day.

“We have to have that mentality to win at all costs and we have to push ourselves. I didn’t see enough of that.”

Evatt also name Regan Riley on the bench after his impressive display against Shrewsbury in the EFL Trophy.

The 17-year-old has been promoted to the first team training squad, something the Whites boss is hoping will pave the way for others to follow suit.

“I have massive confidence in them,” he said of the club’s youngsters. “Regan has really impressed me for a 17-year-old his physical data and what he can do, how he moves around a football pitch, is excellent. And he’s impressed me with what he can do with the ball as well. He’s going to be a fantastic player for this football club.”