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Opposition Lowdown: Ian Evatt’s Bolton Wanderers

Reading return to action after the international break with a home tie against in-form Bolton Wanderers. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Bolton Wanderers v Salford City - EFL Trophy Photo by Mike Morese/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


Bolton finished in fifth place in League One last season on 81 points. They played fourth-placed Barnsley in the playoffs, but lost out on a place in the final after a 1-0 loss away from home in the second leg, having played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg.

They have had a strong start to the season, currently sitting second in the league, one point behind leaders Stevenage, with a game in hand. They have won four, lost one and drawn one of their six games so far, but have only faced two away fixtures in the league, beating Cheltenham Town and drawing with Burton Albion.

The two sides last faced each other in the 2018/19 season with Bolton winning 0-1 at the Madejski Stadium, before the sides played out a 1-1 draw at the University of Bolton Stadium.

The boss

Ian Evatt: Evatt was appointed Bolton manager in July 2020, taking over from Keith Hill, who left the club following their relegation to League Two. The former centre-back had a 19-year career, playing for the likes of Derby County, Chesterfield, QPR and Blackpool.

After ending his career at Chesterfield, he took on his first full-time managerial role at National League side Barrow. He guided the club back to the Football League after winning the league in the 2019/20 season that was cut short due to Covid-19.

Evatt left the club that summer after Bolton agreed a deal to bring him to the University of Bolton Stadium. He guided the club back to League One in his first season in charge, securing automatic promotion after a third-place finish in League Two. He has since guided Wanderers to ninth- and fifth-placed finishes in the third tier.

Evatt likes his sides to play an attacking, direct style of football.


Bolton saw six players leave the club on free transfers this summer with goalkeeper Joel Dixon, defender Adam Senior, midfielder Kieran Lee, wingers Kieran Sadlier and Lloyd Isgrove and striker Elia Kachunga all leaving the Toughsheet Community Stadium. Midfielder MJ Williams also left, signing for League Two side MK Dons.

Six players have signed for Bolton on permanent deals, with goalkeepers Nathan Baxter and Joel Coleman and defender Josh Dacres-Cogley arriving on free transfers. Centre-back Will Forrester (Port Vale), winger Carlos Mendes (Luton Town) and forward Dan Nlundulu (Southampton) all signed for undisclosed fees.

Wanderers have also signed two players on loan, with left-back Zac Ashworth and midfielder Paris Maghoma signing season-long deals from West Bromwich Albion and Brentford respectively.

Defender George Johnston will definitely miss out on Saturday’s game as he is out for the season with a knee injury. Summer signing Carlos Mendes will also miss out with a hamstring injury.

Expected line-up

Baxter, Dacres-Cogley, Toal, Jones, Santos, Williams, Thomason, Maghoma, Sheehan, Charles, Adeboyejo

Key player

Dion Charles: Striker Charles joined Bolton in January 2022, signing from Accrington Stanley for an undisclosed fee. He started his youth career at Blackpool, but never made a first-team appearance for the club, so joined non-league side AFC Fylde in 2014.

He signed for Fleetwood Town two years later, but only made one first-team appearance for the club before moving to Southport. A move to Accrington Stanley followed and this is where Charles started to make a name for himself, scoring 30 goals in 97 appearances for the club.

This caught the eye of Wanderers, who signed him last January for a six-figure fee. He has become a key man for Bolton in his time with the club, scoring 34 goals, with 21 of those coming last season as he finished as Wanderers’ top scorer.

Charles is a strong finisher who is skilled at finding a way through gaps in an opponent’s defence. He is also a Northern Ireland international and represented his country during last week’s international break.

One to watch

Nathan Baxter: Goalkeeper Baxter joined Bolton this summer following his release from Chelsea. He started his youth career at Cray Wanderers before joining the Chelsea academy at the age of eight.

Baxter never made a first-team appearance for Chelsea but did have first-team football at a number of clubs on loan, representing the likes of Woking, Yeovil Town, Ross County, Accrington Stanley and Hull City. Hull is where Baxter spent the last two seasons in two different loan spells, playing 30 games for the Tigers and keeping eight clean sheets.

The 24-year-old has established himself as Bolton’s number one, starting every league game for the club so far this season, with three clean sheets to his name. Baxter is seen to be a strong leader despite still being early on in his career.