PLAY-OFF defeat hurt Ian Evatt last summer – but the Wanderers boss says he has been impressed with the way his players have bounced back this time around.

The two-legged loss against Barnsley in May denied Bolton a chance to return to Wembley, where they had lifted the Papa Johns Trophy a month earlier.

Some questioned whether there would be a hangover from the disappointment but results so far this season suggest otherwise.

"I didn't really stop thinking about it to be honest," Evatt said of the Oakwell result. “This job comes with huge sacrifice, and I want us to be the best we can be. It hurt us all summer and we had to work and go again.

"We went into the play-offs in really good form with great confidence we could get the job done. Losing that game hurt me, and us as a club. It was about switching on really quickly and seeing how we can improve.

"It's easy to have ideas and goals, it's turning them into reality which is the challenging thing to do. We've worked hard since, and we're hopeful this season we can progress further.

"It's the nature of football that you're going to have setbacks, it's just about how you recover from them. We've reacted in the right way."

Evatt took charge in July 2020 and should soon become only the fifth man to manage 200 games at Bolton since The Second World War.

"One of the biggest reasons I took this job was because this club shared my ambition for where I wanted to go in my career," he told Sky Sports. "We've got something here that's almost unique in football, and everyone has bought into the project, the brand and the identity.

"We've had promotion, the EFL Trophy win. Some success. Wembley was a great day for this club because of where we've been. We almost lost the club a few years ago, and we needed that big day to show it's on its way back.

"Winning is a habit, and winning the trophy felt good because it increased our appetite to make sure it happened again.

"We're still only part way along the journey, but we've got to the stage where the club isn't broken anymore. We've reconnected with the local community, we've built the football department. We're fully functioning again.

"We want to get the club back to where it belongs. I believe this is a Premier League club."