BY Ian Evatt’s own admission, picking a team to face MK Dons on the opening day of the League One season is not a simple task.

Wanderers concluded their promotion campaign in May with a team-sheet that barely differed from week to week. Consistency of performance had cemented a regular 11, which barring the odd tactical tweak relied heavily on a small group of players, who were playing well.

Things are different for the Bolton boss this summer. Having done most of his transfer business early the squad is well-stocked in most positions.

Some players who had drifted to the periphery in the closing months of last season have arrived back at Lostock refreshed, and some of the old guard now find their position challenged.

Evatt will tell you it is a problem every manager craves – but maintaining that competition for places in the longer term is also a skill in itself. Arguably, it is also one he has yet to test since taking the job.

It all add an extra spice to pre-season games, where catching the eye might just be the difference  between a place on the bench, and a place on the pitch.

We look at a few of the positions which could be most fiercely contested in the coming weeks, based on the early pre-season performances.

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Evatt has underlined on a couple of occasions since bringing his former Barrow charge Dixon to the UniBol that he is not simply here as competition for Gilks – but could earn the number one role on his own terms.

Veteran Gilks was unquestionably one of the heroes of the promotion campaign and his influence on the team was clear to see (and hear) but a summer knee operation has left him with a little bit of catching up to do.

It has been difficult to assess Dixon in the first couple of games as he has been largely untested but the battle between the two keepers does not look as straightforward as some once thought.

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Mr Versatile v The Specialist. Brockbank’s ability and willingness to play just about anywhere for Bolton has made charting his path to becoming a first team regular rather difficult. It is a right-back, however, that he appears to have the best chance.

Gethin Jones was one of last year’s most improved players, progressing from a full-back playing wing-back to someone who really started to know the role.

Both have shown up well in the opening two games and it may boil down to the relationships they foster on the flank with Llloyd Isgrove or Xavier Amaechi which determine who starts against MK Dons. Right now, it looks a tough one to call.

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With Ricardo Santos as close as anyone to being a guaranteed starter under Evatt, who plays alongside him in League One seems a much closer-run race.

Baptiste has only had 45 comfortable minutes against Atherton Colls, whereas Johnston caught the eye in the opening friendly at Longridge. Neither has been particularly stretched, defensively, surely that will change forthcoming games against Preston, Barrow and Blackburn?

Johnston is naturally left-sided, which might offer him a slight edge. But Baptiste has history with the manager and was so influential from January onwards.

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Wales international Sheehan has already showed a few glimpses of class in the first two friendlies which suggest he better than a place on the bench – but central midfield is the hardest position on the pitch to call at Wanderers.

Assuming MJ Williams will be cast as the ‘ratter’ and club captain Antoni Sarcevic at number 10, Sheehan will most likely duke it out with Kieran Lee and George Thomason for the third central spot.

Each offer something different – Sheehan looks positive and can carry the ball, Lee has experience and rarely coughs up possession, Thomason boasts energy and a range of passing.

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It may sound slightly bizarre to consider that last season’s top scorer might not start the first game of the season but his 10-day self-isolation for Covid has not come at an ideal time, as Ian Evatt’s side look to hone those attacking combinations.

We know what we will get with Doyle. His record is good in League One (100 games, 46 goals, 15 assists) and he shouldered the scoring burden for most of last season.

But Amadou Bakayoko has shown up well in the opening couple of games and if Doyle does need a little more time to get up to speed, the former Coventry City man might just get an unexpected chance.

There is always the possibility, of course, that both will play together - and Bakayoko is also able to play wide on the right.