WANDERERS were urged to make every second of their preparation count yesterday as they built-up to a vitally important game at Cambridge United.

Attempting to add some fresh impetus to the promotion push, Ian Evatt had instructed his players to ignore some of the outside noise which may have become a distraction in recent weeks.

The Bolton boss conceded his own failings on that front – particularly in the light of some much-debated refereeing decisions and his own ongoing disciplinary charge with the Football Association.

But even as the team bus waited for the players and staff to board at the Toughsheet Stadium, Evatt discussed the message he had issued to the squad that morning; focus on the journey and not the destination.

Wanderers are three points behind second-placed Derby County and play the first of two games in hand they currently hold on the Rams at the Abbey Stadium.

Evatt had reflected after Saturday’s 3-3 draw against Charlton Athletic – and Derby’s 90th minute winner against Stevenage – that “it feels like the world is against us at the moment.”

A few days later, he was keen to shift the attention to preparation for arguably his side’s biggest game of the season so far.

“We have had a really good chat and I think it is about focussing on today, not even tomorrow, just be really good today,” the manager said. “Everything we do, whether it is on the grass, in the meeting room, myself and the coaching staff – what we give to the players, all their own individual responsibilities, just make sure they are good, today. Take care of tomorrow, tomorrow.

“That has to be our mindset from here on in. There is no point looking at others, no point feeling sorry for ourselves over refereeing decisions – and I know I am probably the biggest culprit for that – we just have to focus on what we can control.

“I feel like we came in this morning and now have a fresh mindset to do that.”

Saturday’s result against Charlton – and in particular the defending for the visitors’ opening two goals – has sent ripples of concern around the fanbase.

Though Wanderers crafted three excellent goals and maintained a six-game unbeaten run, the inability to kill off a side that had not won a game since November did not go down well in most quarters.

Evatt is keen to move on.

“When you score three goals at home and concede an xG of 0.44, you should really win the game,” he said. “That is a disappointment, however, these things happen. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.

“You look at other games, for example Derby’s who we analyse for our own opposition data, Stevenage had four shots and they had five, scoring in the 90th minute. Sometimes it goes for you like that.

“We need to focus only on ourselves now, on today. If we’re good today then we reset and we can be good again tomorrow. If we have that mindset now for the rest of the season then we’ll be okay.”

The recent form of leaders Portsmouth and second-placed Derby has put extra pressure on Bolton winning the games in hand they currently hold on both clubs.

Evatt remains confident in the ability of his squad to make up the ground and hold their nerve as they look to return to the Championship for the first time in five years.

He said: “We have nine points from the last five games and 12 from the last six, which is still two-per-game, and people perceive that everyone else is flying and we are not, which is great. We are happy to chase.

“For us, we just have to focus on preparing for the next opportunity, which is Cambridge, and as I said to the players, taking care of today first and foremost.”

Cambridge earned a confidence-boosting 4-0 win at Carlisle on Saturday and have often proved stubborn opposition for Evatt in his three-and-a-half years in charge.

“If you look at their squad they have some good, experienced players,” the manager said. “They have a front four who have played at a higher level, predominantly, which is great credit to their recruitment team that they have pieced that together.

“They have two centre-backs who have played at a higher level too.

“It is never easy going there, we know that first hand, but as with all games we respect the opposition and try to give a good account of ourselves to get the best chance of winning.”