IAN Evatt admits it is play-offs or bust for Wanderers after a disappointing 2-0 home defeat to Ipswich Town.

The Bolton boss felt Dion Charles’s missed penalty at the start of the second half was a major turning point for his team, who seemed to have picked up after a scrappy first 45 minutes.

George Hirst had put the Tractor Boys ahead when Luke Mbete’s pass was picked off deep in the Ipswich half – with Wes Burns eventually crossing for the Leicester City man to pass a smart shot past James Trafford.

After Christian Walton saved the spot kick from Charles, Cameron Burgess headed home from Leif Davis’s corner to double the lead and kill off any chance of a comeback.

“I think they deserved to win, if I’m honest,” Evatt said. “There wasn’t a great number of clear-cut opportunities in the game. We had one with Conor but I thought they managed the game better and were more mature with their performance.

“They picked up a lot of second balls, first contacts, and we just looked a bit timid and nervous, especially first half. The timing of the first goal was just the worst possible, we had comfortable possession, switched the ball and played a negative pass – a sideways pass that was exactly what they were looking for, negative triggers, we went ahead of the ball, they broke and scored with quality.

“We spoke at half time not about being more pragmatic but about asking their defence more questions, playing forward with a bit more quality. We did that, built momentum, got the penalty, and then missing it changed everything. It sapped and drained the life out of us, the fans and the stadium, and after that moment they’d scored from a set play and that was that.

“Over 90 minutes they deserved to win but if that penalty goes in then I think it is a completely different game, I think we can all feel that.

“We are disappointed, we’re going through a sticky moment, but we have to stick together. We are still in a good position, which hasn’t really changed today. We have to go again.”

Wanderers are now sixth, six points ahead of Wycombe, who have two games in hand.

Any hopes that they could claw back ground on the top two over the last nine games have now disappeared – but Evatt says he will now look for a response from his players on Friday night when they head to League One leaders Sheffield Wednesday.

“I think that has gone, we’re all realistic here,” he said of automatic promotion chances. “We are not looking there now, we are just looking to cement ourselves in the play-offs, and we are there at the moment.

“It is a difficult league and there have been some strange results today. Who would have envisaged Cheltenham winning 3-0 at Peterborough or Barnsley beating Plymouth 3-0. They are having a really good moment, similar to the one we had a few weeks back.

“These football seasons are long and drawn out affairs and you go through sticky spells, which we are in one at the moment. There were parts of that today I didn’t like very much so we need to get back to ourselves and we’ll work very hard this week to try and do that against Sheffield Wednesday.”