WANDERERS could have picked a better time to have a crisis of confidence, thankfully they have time to put it right.

Since day one under Ian Evatt this team has been built on bravado, swagger on taking risks in possession and making them count. And on those occasions where the execution has failed to live up to the expected standard, this is usually the end result.

From the finger-pointing and negative body language to the nervy way Bolton played from the back, it was difficult to pick this group of players out as the same ones who had steamrollered MK Dons and Peterborough or played Barnsley off the park at Oakwell not that long ago.

There are problems for Evatt to solve, that much is certain. And though he had hoped that some time working closely with the squad on the training ground would remedy the clunkiness which had crept into their game over a tiring last month, the added detail appeared to have the opposite effect. This looked like a collection of players who had all the information, and no idea how to use it.

Sure, there were pivotal points in the match where Bolton could have eased the tension. Christian Walton made a key save from Conor Bradley in the first half and then pushed away Dion Charles’s penalty shortly after the restart. Had either of those two opportunities been taken then the men in white may have relaxed into their game a little and looked slightly less like rabbits in the Tractor Boys’ headlights.

In truth, however, it was only in a short spell early in the second half that Wanderers gave the illusion of a team which, until very recently, had been on level par with Ipswich in the League One table and looking up at the top two, rather than back at seventh-placed Wycombe.

Evatt’s team is suddenly starting to show its age. Young and inexperienced players like Shola Shoretire, Luke Mbete, Eoin Toal and Aaron Morley have all been loaded with pressures that older heads may struggle to bear at times.

Bolton have leaned heavily on James Trafford – who has held firm impressively – and perhaps even more so on 19-year-old wing-back Conor Bradley, whose ferocious bravery and energy shone through the sleet on Saturday, even when others failed to deliver.

Even the Liverpool and Northern Ireland teen, surely destined to be a Premier League player, wobbled under the strain of February. His non-stop performance against Ipswich, however, underlined just what talent the boy from County Tyrone really has.

It is, perhaps, for more senior players to step up to the plate in moments like this. For large swathes of Saturday afternoon Bolton’s football was directionless, negative, even.

Ipswich did not fare too much better until the end of the first half when Mbete tried to pick out Gethin Jones on the left and was picked-off by Wes Burns, who raced down the right flank to deliver a pin-point cross for George Hirst to pass home effortlessly into the bottom corner.

It was a wonderful moment of precision, emanating from the man Evatt had looked to shackle by playing the more defence-minded Jones ahead of Declan John or Randell Williams.

That tactical decision – much as it had at Wycombe – gave the Whites an imbalanced look in attack and put huge demands on Bradley to drive and create from the right.

Evatt appeared to have found the right switch at half time, his players returning with some bright football which eventually earned the penalty, albeit Shoretire might have taken the decision out of the hands of referee Neil Hair by scoring from close range.

In the event, Cameron Burgess’s trip on Bradley was enough. Hair pointed to the spot and after a lengthy delay the normally ultra reliable Charles saw his penalty pushed away by Walton, denying him a 19th goal of the campaign.

One wonders whether the streetwise antics of Sam Morsy et al on the edge of the penalty box had distracted the Bolton striker? Certainly, the former Wigan Athletic man and Ipswich skipper had done a number on Shoretire in the first half, busting his lip within the first 20 minutes and effectively putting him out of the game by the interval. You get what you pay for, and there are few better at this level when it comes to the dark midfield arts.

Once the penalty had been cleared, the optimism disappeared from the stadium like a deflated balloon. Wanderers were back to safety-first football, triggering the various traps laid by their opponents, which antagonised a 20,000-strong crowd who were already feeling the cold.

Aside from Bradley’s bustling on the right there was little happening in attack for the Whites. Charles lost his edge after the penalty and Victor Adeboyejo just seemed to be on a different page for most of the afternoon – his good touches and quick feet often overshadowed by a poor ball, or a mis-read run. Like a handful of the January signings, he is yet to gel, and time is not on anyone’s side.

Ipswich grabbed a second after James Trafford had pushed away Nathan Broadhead’s stinging shot for a corner. Burgess blundered a header from Leif Davis’s corner and the game was over.

At two down, Evatt tried in vain to change something from the bench, adding Kieran Lee and Cameron Jerome to proceedings. Both looked sharp – albeit set against a low Bolton bar – and one wonders if experienced heads were what this situation had called for in the first place?

The margin of defeat could have been greater, with sub Marcus Harness wasting one big chance for the visitors before the end. Jerome also had a header pushed away by Walton, whose heroics on the day earned him a standing ovation from the travelling fans.

For Wanderers, heads bowed and applause half-hearted, the walk back down the tunnel was a lonely one. They have not been used to this feeling, particularly at home, and few can contest the feeling of concern that is starting to creep into the fanbase.

Are Bolton Wanderers good enough to make the play-offs? Yes. But do they believe that?