THERE was a time when perfecting set-pieces seemed the last thing on Ian Evatt’s mind – but now the Wanderers boss has a different point of view.

Back in the League Two days when his team was still in an embryonic stage, the Bolton boss freely confessed that planning for free-kicks and corners was not on his agenda.

But three seasons on, Evatt has a newfound appreciation. And only four teams in League One – Wycombe, Portsmouth, Stevenage and Peterborough United have scored more.

A clever routine involving Josh Sheehan, Aaron Morley and George Thomason created the opening goal at Charlton for Randell Williams and even brought a smile to the manager’s face – betraying the fact it also guarantees an extra payment to the players’ kitty.

“Believe it or not, I have actually started to take a real interest in set plays,” he said.

“We looked at their set up and thought we could play short with a couple of passes and then switch it back to where it came from, so it was unexpected, and they executed it perfectly, I’m delighted for them.”

Wanderers have won the last three games, coinciding with the return of Ricardo Santos from injury.

The Bolton skipper was one of the outstanding players at The Valley, making a game-high number of blocks and clearances, plus winning 100 per cent of his aerial duels.

“He is a top player – one of the best, if not the best player in the league, in my opinion,” Evatt enthused.

“He is a difference maker and when you lose your difference makers teams can’t function as well. It doesn’t mean you can’t get results but you want your best players fit and out there, and they did a great job.”

Charlton was Wanderers’ fourth clean sheet of the season – and the ‘goals against’ column has run up higher numbers over the first 14 games.

It took until the turn of 2023 for the Whites to concede 18 times last season but Evatt remains content that his team’s defending has been strong.

“I don’t think we are conceding too many chances,” he said. “On Tuesday at Wycombe we got done by a 25-yard screamer and a set play, and that can happen. But I think the way we have defended, back to front, is how it has always been. We’ll continue with it. Nathan Baxter is doing really well in goal too, which is great to see.”

Evatt also had words of praise for his second-half substitutes who – just as they did at Wycombe – made a positive impact in the latter stages.

He said: “I thought Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was outstanding when he came on, held the ball up for us, Dan Nlundulu was very good as well. Paris is a fabulous player and again we saw flashes of him driving past opponents and doing the things that we know he can do. And there is more to come as well.

“We are going to enjoy tonight because it has been a long week but we will reset because there is another long week ahead now.”