IAN Evatt admits Billy Crellin’s confidence has suffered in recent weeks at Wanderers – but is still undecided on whether he will take him out of the firing line for tonight’s showdown with Salford City.

Impressed by the Fleetwood loanee’s response on the training ground amid mounting calls for him to be dropped from the team, Evatt has backed Crellin to emerge stronger from the experience.

Goalkeeper coach Matt Gilks and academy graduate Matty Alexander remain on standby if the Bolton boss decides to swing the axe.

But Evatt is insistent that Crellin will eventually fulfil the potential, which has made him an England youth international.

“It is challenging for him at the moment but that doesn’t mean that we don’t, as a group, have belief in his ability or in what he will become,” he told The Bolton News. “I honestly think he will have a top career because he has all the attributes.

“He is going through a rough time, people do in football, and sometimes in the face of adversity you have to come out of the other side of it and be stronger for the experience.

“He has trained really well this week, so we will see tomorrow what happens.

Evatt’s handling of Crellin’s erratic form has come under some scrutiny recently, as has the club’s decision not to recruit an obvious competitor for a first team spot.

Gilks – who recommended his former Fleetwood protegee in the summer – remains most likely to step in after increasing his own training workload.

Evatt admits he may now have to take a different approach than he would for a more experienced keeper.

“Probably, is the honest answer,” he said. “This is a huge, huge football club and the expectation levels are ever so high.

“We have asked a lot of Billy to come in during his first full campaign of men’s football and expect him as a 20-year-old lad to be error free is probably unrealistic. He is the first to admit that.

“As a player you will go through tough times in your career and that might be early on, it might be towards the end, but I think further down the line this run of games will only bode well for Billy. He will learn from it and come back stronger.”

Evatt has flat denied, however, that there is any contractual agreement with Fleetwood which states that Crellin should play a certain number of games.

“No. There is nothing in his contract and I would never, ever do that for any player,” he said.

“All you do then is pigeonhole yourself. If they are not playing well then you would not be able to leave them out. And it is not up to Fleetwood Town to pick my team, it’s up to Ian Evatt to pick Bolton’s team, and that will always be the case with every single loan player.”