Ian Evatt felt an “aggressive and intense” performance at Cambridge United was a positive step for Wanderers in their search for form.
Having lost their last two games in league and cup and had the quality of their performances in October called into question, the Bolton boss knew his side had to produce at the Abbey Stadium.
Had Kyle Dempsey avoided a second yellow card 15 minutes from the end of the game, the Whites may have been able to turn one point into three, but Evatt was nevertheless content with his players’ attitude in a hard-fought game.
“We have had a nasty habit of conceding the first goal too often, so first half we were slightly more cautious and pragmatic,” he said. “We spoke about that, especially away from home.
“You can’t lose games before you can win them and we had to grow into the game and I thought we did that perfectly. Second half we were in the ascendancy and I think we would have gone on to win it but for the red card.”
Wanderers produced just one shot on target – their best opportunities falling to Gethin Jones, Dion Charles and Conor Bradley in the second half.
Jones’ miss at the far post, following a corner, may well have been rendered moot by the linesman’s flag but it did prove a turning point in the game as Wanderers were reduced to 10 men just a couple of moments later.
“I thought it was an aggressive and intense performance,” Evatt observed. “I thought we showed moments of quality with the ball. We conceded still a slight lack of confidence at the top end of the pitch but I think we did some good work today.
“You don’t get many better chances than that one second half and if it goes in, we win 1-0 and everyone is walking away happy, but the pleasing thing for me was that could have easily rocked us after Gethin’s missed chance and then a minute later, Dempsey is off the pitch. It would have been easy for us to crumble a bit and get rocked, but we didn’t. We stuck together and I thought we were excellent second half.”
Trafford had given fans a scare when he went down off the ball in the first half, following a collision with Lloyd Jones. Evatt had not named a reserve keeper on the bench but said he was not overly concerned.
“I know Traff well enough now to know when he’s properly injured or when there’s just a knock,” he said. “Fortunately for us it was just a dead leg from the challenge.”
Trafford showed his class in the second half, particularly in injury time when he blocked a shot from Sam Smith with the last touch of the game.
Evatt said of his keeper: “It was a brilliant save but that’s when your goalkeeper is called upon to make saves like that, especially away from home on tight pitches where long throws are being utilised, set plays are being utilised, you have to defend your box and Traff is part of that defensive unit defending his box and I thought it was a great save.”