RYAN Delaney would not have been able to play against Mansfield tonight, regardless of a one-match ban, after needing surgery to repair a serious ear injury over the weekend.

Wanderers defender Delaney was sent off for picking up two second half yellow cards in Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Tranmere Rovers.

The first came after a collision with Liam Feeney which led to Tranmere's decisive penalty.

Feeney went down clutching his head but came back onto the pitch after being bandaged up, only to receive a second yellow in the 75th minute after catching James Vaughan with his arm as he competed for a header.

But ahead of tonight's trip to in-form Mansfield Town, Bolton boss Ian Evatt has revealed the full extent of the damage done in the first incident.

"I'm disappointed because I don't believe that Ryan deserved to be sent off, but he probably would have missed the game anyway because in the penalty decision where their player's had a shot, ran four yards and then jumped into Ryan it completely cut his ear off and he's had to have some serious repair work done to that in hospital at the weekend. It was more or less hanging off after the game," Evatt explained.

"He would have probably missed (the game) anyway but I would think he'll be okay for Saturday. But it just shows you the bravery of the lad to continue after such a horrific injury."

His enforced absence does, however, present an opportunity for someone else, and not a headache for Evatt as he admits they have options thanks to a formation adopted earlier in the season.

"When we moved from three centre backs to playing a back four obviously we're quite well stocked in that area so there will be opportunities for someone else to come and stake their claim in the team," said the Bolton boss, who has seen plenty of benefits in switching to a back four.

"I think what we're doing is we're controlling the game more with possession," he said. "We're building from the back better, we're probably looking more fluid.

"The games have all been tight and we've had the majority of the chances and opportunities and conceded poor goals at one end and not taken our chances at the other end and that's football.

"From box to box everything in between looks okay at the moment, we're just not defending our goal well enough and not taking our chances at the other end, but once we put that right we'll go on a run because I feel like we're dominating games a lot better than we were earlier on in the season, we just need to make sure we do the bit in both boxes better."

And Evatt believes they have the right personnel to play their new 4-2-3-1 formation.

"I'm excited because I know that we've got Declan John around the corner, I know we've got Kieran Lee coming back, I know we've got Shaun Miller coming back, and I also know that we'll probably bring one or two more in this week which will strengthen us again, so all of a sudden we're looking like a real strong unit, providing we keep people fit and in one piece and we can have a good go at these last 22 games for the rest of the season."

Evatt had hoped to secure a return for Peter Kioso from Luton Town after the Hatter exercised their option to recall the wingback, but the 21-year-old has joined League One Northampton Town until the end of the season.