IAN Evatt reckons Ali Crawford can rise to the challenge of extra competition in the Wanderers midfield ranks.

The talented Scot has been benched for the last five games after some indifferent form but bounced back as a second-half substitute in Tuesday night’s draw at Exeter to help rescue a point in the final stages.

Bolton added ex-Sheffield Wednesday man Kieran Lee to their ranks last week and the rise of youngster George Thomason has given Crawford an even tougher task to win back a regular spot.

Evatt has also switched formation to 4-3-3, which leaves one less midfield spot up for grabs.

But the Wanderers boss is convinced that Crawford can rise to the challenge and has seen a positive reaction since taking him out of the side.

“I think we need to see more of that,” he said of the 29-year-old’s performance at St James Park. “For 20 minutes there he showed what he can do.

“Ali is a very good footballer and players can have spells where they don’t play as well. He’s allowed to go in and out of form, it happens to every footballer on the planet.

“It’s about how he responds and the way he’s trained this past couple of weeks has also been excellent, and that’s why I put him on. It was just a gut feeling.”

Arthur Gnahoua scored the crucial goal to earn a point at Exeter, furthering his own claim on a return to first team action.

The news that new loan signing Declan John will only be out of action for a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury has also come as a boost to Evatt, who feels Crawford and Gnahoua are symptomatic of a squad determined to push on this season.

“The two have trained really well,” he said. “Sometimes when those decisions come off you look a very good manager but the fact is, we have a competitive squad at the moment.

“Ali has seen that Kieran is in the building, George Thomason has been excellent and he was unfortunate not to start.

“There is real competition for places and when we get Declan back, we’ve got balance on the left side.

“We have got two very capable full-backs in Harry Brockbank and Gethin Jones already.

“So, all of a sudden, once we bring one or two more players in, we’ve got real competition for places.

“You have to be on your game or otherwise you’ll lose your place. That is the nature of football.”