IAN Evatt has backed his players to perform on the “big stage” under intense play-off pressure at Barnsley tonight.

Wanderers go to Oakwell for the first leg looking to set themselves up nicely for the home return on Tuesday (May 7) at the Toughsheet Community Stadium.

Evatt has set his focus on claiming a positive result but rejected claims that his team has drastically under-performed in such pressured circumstances to date.

Bolton finished the season with two wins – against Derby and Oxford at home - six draws and two defeats when faced with rival sides in the top six, whereas opponents Barnsley won two, drew three and lost five.

The spotlight will be on the Whites once again in South Yorkshire and Evatt has come to his side’s defence in the build-up, insisting results in the big games have not been as negative as sometimes portrayed.

“It is something that has become a narrative, and you could probably give me occasions where we have underperformed, but I could throw back occasions where we have performed,” he told The Bolton News.

“I think it has been mixed. There has been inconsistencies and we have lost out on moments sometimes.

“The Derby game, for instance, on the big stage, I think we performed so well and didn’t get the result, which ultimately cost us what we were going for.

“If you look at other games – Wembley last year, Derby at home, Blackpool at home, Portsmouth we didn’t get the win but performed incredibly.

“There are pros and cons but that’s football. What is gone is gone, we have to perform now. The time is now.

“This group is slightly different to last season’s group and the game looks slightly different too. It is down to us to go and execute but I am sure they will feel the same way.”

Wanderers have had a full week to prepare for the game and have Victor Adeboyejo and Paris Maghoma back to add to the squad that drew on the final day at Peterborough United.

Evatt says there is no lasting damage from having missed out on a top two spot, and that discussions this week have centred around the positive accomplishments his players have achieved this season already.

“It has just been reaffirming to them that they are a really good team,” he said. “We have done some really good things this season and sometimes when you lose out on your primary target you can lose sight of what has been achieved. That’s including myself as well because I’m not really one to look back, I want to achieve something more.

“We need to remind ourselves that we did score more goals in a calendar year than any Bolton team in history, we did win 7-0 here – the best scoreline the stadium has ever had, we have more points than last season, won more, lost less, the goal difference is better, individually my record is up there with any of the post-war Bolton managers.

“Sometimes with the negativity and sour feeling you need to have some perspective on what we have achieved as a group so far.

“But really, it is now about performing on the big stage and the pressure stage and that is something we need to do at Oakwell on Friday before moving on to the next game. All week our focus has been on this game, and I sense the players are in a good place, they have let it go pretty quickly and had the positive meetings early in the week, we have talked about the good things and let the bad ones go, for now.”