THERE was no shortage of introspection inside the University of Bolton Stadium last Saturday evening as the expectant crowds drifted back home with promotion party plans on hold.

Had Bolton counted their proverbial chickens before the job was done against Exeter City? Perhaps so.

But if the build-up to last week’s game raised some red flags about a lack of focus, then the last five days have been a different matter entirely.

Evatt gathered his players around on Monday morning for a frank talk about what had gone wrong – and barring the announcement of next year’s season ticket there has been precious little else distracting attention from Crawley and a last shot at cementing a top three place.

There had been a party mood in Bolton this time last week but the 2-1 defeat against the Grecians has altered the mood significantly.

Even Evatt, whose demeanour rarely deviates far from polite and chatty when talking football, gave off a sense in his weekly press conference that he would much rather be left alone until the final whistle blows at the People’s Pension Stadium.

Only then will it be right to commend him on a frankly incredible job over 46 games, hopefully without the looming spectre of three more.

Picking up his players’ spirits after the gut-punch against Exeter made this appear the toughest week Evatt has had in the Bolton hotseat but the Whites boss says the reaction of his players has made the job a whole lot easier.

“It hasn’t been a difficult week at all,” he said. “I had a difficult Saturday night and Sunday – it was probably more difficult for my wife and kids.

“We said during the good run we went on that we lacked time to be off-colour and below par but fortunately for us we managed to buy ourselves an extra bit of time.

“Saturday put paid to all that. We will all look back and analyse the Exeter game and whether we could have managed it better, and the answer is probably yes.

“But the facts are we just didn’t play well enough, forget everything else, we just didn’t play well enough. No excuses, we just didn’t do what we can do in the second half and it has given us another opportunity, a second chance, to perform for 90 minutes this time at Crawley.”

As Evatt will attest, the pressure has been square on Bolton’s shoulders since it became clear this season was not necessarily going to be a complete write-off.

After a poor start and clear issues with recruitment last summer, it appeared the second half of the season was going to be damage limitation – that was until a 14-game unbeaten run which transformed both the manager and the team in the supporters’ eyes.

At one stage, even a tilt at the play-offs looked a long way away for the Whites, yet the expectancy has steadily risen and means the final game of the regular season ranks as the biggest in Evatt’s career.

“Potentially it is because of the way last season ended,” he said, referring to Barrow’s promotion from the National League after a pandemic curtailed campaign.

“We have had some big, big games of late – Salford away, Morecambe away – but this one is obviously season-defining. Last game, all to play for.

“But there is no point worrying about it, being fearful or nervous, we just have to concentrate on the game itself, one v one, 11 v 11.

“We are playing Crawley and the lads have to go out there and do the best they can.”

If there is such thing as a ‘normal week’ at Bolton Wanderers, then this has been it. No frills, no distractions, no opportunity for focus to be lost.

“It can’t really be anything else, can it? Evatt said.

“We obviously know what is at stake but from our perspective, it is just another game and we have to treat it that way.

“We are playing Crawley away and we have to do as much as we can to get the result we need to be promoted, and the lads are fully focused on that.

“They are disappointed after Saturday and there was a few feeling sorry for themselves over the weekend, but come Monday morning, we were back at it.

“Saturday we know there are no more chances, no more room, we have to perform.

“We are looking forward to it, we are excited, and I am looking forward to a good game.”