IAN Evatt reckons shipping nine goals against Port Vale and Tranmere in December has left “mental scars” on his side’s defenders.

Things had been going well for the Wanderers boss throughout November, whose side had earned five consecutive competitive victories and had broken into the top 10 for the first time this season.

But the shocking reverse at home to out-of-sorts Vale triggered a run during which Bolton conceded 14 goals in their last five games of 2020, including a 3-0 defeat against Keith Hill’s Tranmere.

Those results, says Evatt, had a profound effect on the home performance against Crawley on Saturday, where his team’s shape suffered as a result of players pulling themselves out of position.

“I think at times in the first half because of what happened in the Tranmere game, probably because of the Port Vale game, it has scarred us,” added the manager.

“The most difficult thing in football is to go from a mentality of being hard to beat, from being solid and doing the ugly things well to suddenly being open and expansive, passing the ball.

“First half against Crawley we were ugly. We didn’t look like my team. But we had that focus of mental focus of stopping them scoring rather than scoring ourselves.

“And when you do that you end up with people doing alien things. You end up with Eoin Doyle playing left wing because they are trying so hard.

“What we need to do is keep that steel, that firmness, and defend your own box at all costs mentality but then add the quality we showed in the last 25 minutes.

“It’s a really difficult thing to do but with the right personnel – and the personnel we are looking to add, it will come together.”

Evatt is keen to bring in another attacking option in the January transfer window and has spoken about switching his approach away from home by using a more physical, ‘target man’ striker as an alternative to Eoin Doyle or Nathan Delfouneso.

Creating chances has not been a major issue for Wanderers, whose shots-per-game average is comfortably mid-table.

Evatt’s side rained in 24 efforts on the Crawley goal on Saturday but finding the breakthrough proved frustratingly difficult and on those occasions the Whites boss admits he could use another alternative.

“We really need that competition at the top end of the pitch,” he said. “We haven’t got it at the moment with Shaun Miller being injured and it has cost us.

“You’ve seen that when we actually put the bits of football together we can create chances quickly in a short space of time.

“We scored two goals in five minutes at Carlisle, and nearly a third when George Thomason hit the post. In 25 minutes against Crawley we could have had seven or eight.

“So it’s about trying to get them to do that more consistently and having the personnel to do that. If it isn’t Nathan’s day, or Eoin’s day, then someone can come on to affect the game and score us a goal to get it over the line.

“We haven’t got that at the moment, but it will change.”