IAN Evatt has explained exactly why Kyle Dempsey did not face his old club Gillingham.

Speaking after his side’s 3-0 win at Priestfield, the Bolton boss admitted that his midfielder had been an injury doubt after tweaking his groin in training.

The midfielder had to pull out of the squad altogether when he fell ill at the end of the week.

“He hurt his groin on Tuesday,” Evatt confirmed. “We kept it very low key and under wraps. It’s nothing too serious, but it was too much for him to take part.

“He was devastated but also he has also picked up a bit of a nasty cold and flu, which may have kept him out anyway.

“He will be back here one day to say his goodbyes, but for now he is a Bolton Wanderers player and he has to look at the future with us.”

Evatt also explained why defender Alex Baptiste has been absent from the last two matchday squads.

“His wife Emily had a complicated pregnancy and obviously we respect their privacy and we want Alex to be with his family to care for her and his newborn child because that is the right thing to do,” he added.

Wanderers held firm under a thorough first-half examination at Priestfield, as Gillingham’s barrage of long throws, free kicks and corners kept them constantly alert.

Evatt had voiced his concern about direct opponents being Bolton’s ‘Kryptonite’ this season and he admits there were some uncomfortable moments early on, even after Aaron Morley had put them ahead.

“We’ve been there before haven’t we?” he said. “We have dominated games and not punished the opposition. So against a team like Gillingham, the way they play with set plays and long throws, they are never really out of the game.

“There is always an opportunity or a chance, so after taking the lead we had to make sure we got that next goal and put the game to bed.

“Obviously with the sending off, we can then relax a bit and control the ball even more.

“But I thought we were doing that before the sending off to be honest. I thought we had all of the control of the game and it was an excellent performance.”

Maintaining that defensive resolve over the last 10 games, says Evatt, will be pivotal to the club’s chances of gate-crashing the play-offs.

“We have some really good players capable of scoring goals and hurting the opposition,” he said. “And that’s all over the pitch now.

“If we can keep things tight the other end, we will win games. And we have won nine out of 12 now, which at this level is exceptional.

“This is a tough league, a good league, it’s unforgiving. We’ve had one or two blips but there are still lots of things to work on, lots of things to be encouraged about.”

Evatt feels that he was able to make some tactical progress with his players on the training ground this week, after a solid month of games in February had left him with little room to manoeuvre.

“We managed to drill some detail into them and when we were receiving the ball today, players were looking to be brave,” he said. “They were on the half turn, they were finding pockets of space, we were trusting each other in possession, breaking lines with passes.

“That was pleasing to see but our counter-press was excellent.

“Our motto and our phrase is we attack with the ball and we attack without the ball. I thought we did both today.”