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Opposition Lowdown: Ian Evatt's Promotion-Chasing Bolton Wanderers

Reading v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One
Photo by David Horton - CameraSport via Getty Images

Reading’s second game of the Easter weekend sees the Royals travel up north to take on Bolton Wanderers on Easter Monday. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Form

Bolton Wanderers finished in fifth place in League One last season, after finishing on 81 points. They played fourth-placed Barnsley in the playoffs, but lost out on a spot 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.

This is their third straight season in the third tier, having won promotion from League Two in 2021, after finishing third. They are in promotion contention, sitting in third place in the league, six points behind second-placed Derby County, but with a game in hand.

Their recent form has been questionable, having seen one win, three draws and one loss in their last five games, and they come into Monday’s game off the back of a 0-0 draw with Stevenage.

Reading claimed a 2-1 win over Wanderers back in September, after goals from Charlie Savage and Caylan Vickers.

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.

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.

Squad

Bolton supplemented their squad with the signing of four players during the January transfer window. Three of those additions were loanees, with wing-back Nathanael Ogbeta joining from Swansea City, right-back Calvin Ramsey signing from Liverpool and defender Caleb Taylor joining from West Bromwich Albion. They also secured the permanent signing of forward Aaron Collins from Bristol Rovers.

Defender George Johnston will definitely miss out on Monday’s game as he is out for the season with a knee injury. Goalkeeper Nathan Baxter and striker Dion Charles are also expected to remain out through injury.

Predicted lineup

Coleman, Forrester, Santos, Toal, Morley, Dacres-Cogley, Thomason, Maghoma, Ogbeta, Collins, Bodvarsson

Key player

Eoin Toal: Defender Toal joined Bolton in July 2022, signing from Northern Irish side Dery City. He started his career in Northern Ireland, coming through the ranks at Armagh City before making his professional debut at the age of 16.

He joined Derry in 2017 and made 155 appearances for the club, while also becoming their captain. He spent five years at Derry before making the move to England with Bolton in 2017, joining for an undisclosed fee.

Toal has gone on to make 73 appearances for Wanderers, scoring seven goals. The 25-year-old has represented Northern Ireland at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level, and has now won two caps for the senior side. Toal is a centre-back who is a good passer of the ball and has good versatility.

One to watch

Nathanael Ogbeta: Wing-back Ogbeta joined Bolton in January, signing on loan from Swansea for the rest of the season.

He started his youth career at Manchester City, joining the club at the age of 10. He left City in 2021, joining Shrewsbury Town on a permanent deal. He made 58 appearances for the Shrews before signing for Swansea a year later.

Ogbeta has only made three appearances for the Swans but spent time on loan at Peterborough United last season. Ogbeta has played a part in 11 games for Wanderers so far this season and scored on his debut against Carlisle United.

He has represented England at youth level, playing across a number of age groups up to the under-20s. The 22-year-old is traditionally a left-back but can also play on the wing. Ogbeta is a strong dribbler with good crossing skills and strong set-piece deliveries.

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