IT is difficult to think of anywhere better than Wigan for a bit of soul searching, or indeed somewhere to get fans back dancing to the same beat.

To borrow a phrase from Chuck Wood’s Casino classic, seven days would have been too long to stew over an unsatisfactory defeat at Blackpool.

Ian Evatt and his players were bound to seek positives from the performance, or claim the margin of victory flattered the hosts, but we are at the stage of the season now where only points matter. And the Whites lost their composure under pressure in both penalty boxes too many times at Bloomfield Road to expect to take anything from the game.

Thankfully, an opportunity to pin one on the club’s near neighbours has come along in double-quick time, and a win Tuesday night would make everything right in the world once more.

Wanderers’ promotion destiny remains in their own hands, not that you would guess from the reaction to the first defeat in eight.

It is rapidly becoming clear that this will not be a picture-book promotion charge, completed well before the end of April. Things do not tend to work that simply in these parts.

While there was understandable upset at the result on Saturday, it is worth noting that the Whites are still on course with Evatt’s two-points-per-game target, which if replicated over the next 13 games would give them 92 points and a very strong claim for a top two spot.

League One has been a tar pit from which many big clubs have struggled to escape in the last couple of decades, some of whom have possessed much bigger budgets than Bolton. There is a sense, however, that the Whites will not get a better chance than they have right now – and messaging from the club has not wavered from the moment they left the pitch as beaten play-off semi-finalists last season.

To climb back into the top two, they must first get a result at Wigan – a fixture which has in recent years become the ‘derby’ of choice for a younger generation of supporters.

Older fans may roll their eyes at the thought of the Latics being considered rivals, yet few can dispute that this fixture has ticked the most boxes over the last 20 years.

The first competitive game played between the two sides was just 41 years ago, Jeff Chandler scoring the only goal at Springfield Park in the old Division Three.

Thereafter, fortunes fluctuated. But Wanderers have now gone seven games without a win against the Latics, going back to an FA Cup third round win in 2015 which came courtesy of a goal on his debut from Zach Clough.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s header earned a point on Bolton’s last visit to the DW Stadium in April 2022 but it remains the only goal scored by the Whites against Wigan in their last four meetings.

The current barren run has contained some particularly galling scorelines, too, a 5-2 defeat in the Championship for a Phil Parkinson side in financial freefall, and two four-goal hammerings for Evatt, which cut deep.

Wanderers won’t have an easy ride if they want to change all that on Tuesday night, and all those familiar warning signs are there: A pitch scarred by Wigan Warriors’ World Club Challenge win against Penrith Panthers, wet weather on the way, another day spent wondering if a key player will be spared suspension on the eve of the game.

Whether Ricardo Santos is cleared of his red card or not, Wanderers will need to find a way to regain stability at the back, having shipped 10 goals in their last five and gone seven games without a clean sheet – their longest wait since April 2022, and their last league visit to Wigan.

Perhaps sensing how injuries have unsettled things in his defence, Evatt has said a few times recently that his side have been ready for a “shootout” and to out-score the opposition, if necessary.

Bolton do have an enviable goal record this season, scoring at a rate of 1.82 per game, a figure matched by Barnsley and bettered only by Peterborough United (1.85).

That ‘shootout’ theory did not pan out at Blackpool, however, and Wanderers cannot afford to make a habit out of missing the short of clear-cut chances which fell to Carlos Mendes Gomes, Josh Dacres-Cogley and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson on Saturday.

The return of a fit and hungry Dion Charles could help on that front, and the Northern Ireland international will feel he is due a goal, eight games since his last.