At Boundary Park it was goals and not gold Bolton were after – and though their utter dominance against the 10-man Latics possibly warranted a bigger scoreline, in the end, two will do.
Harry Clarke’s own goal and a 13th of the season for Eoin Doyle were enough to complete a simple win, which puts Bolton sixth and just four points away from the automatic promotion places.
Not since Michael Ricketts in 2002 has a Bolton player scored more than a dozen – and with Wanderers playing this sort of football, you wouldn’t’ back against him getting to 20 by the close of play.
Wanderers made just one change to the side that beat Barrow, Nathan Delfouneso coming in for Lloyd Isgrove, with Marcus Maddison also returning on the bench after illness.
Oldham will be left wishing they had made more of their early pressure. The dangerous Dylan Bahamboula caused a few awkward moments, with Bobby Grant flashing a shot just over Matt Gilks’ bar.
Harry Kewell’s side went even closer when Davis Keillor-Dunn’s trickery on the right made a chance for Serhat Tasdemir, with his goalbound shot bouncing off his own team-mate, Grant.
Ricardo Santos, fresh from signing a new contract extension, kept things tight for the first 15 minutes as a succession of set pieces were flashed across the box.
Wanderers held firm and gradually started to assert themselves in the game, finding plenty of success down the right side as an in-form Gethin Jones combined well with Delfouneso.
The opening goal itself was a thing of beauty. Sarcevic found Delfouneso with a searching ball down the right and Jones burst past him in the penalty box to drive a low ball across the face of goal, turned in by the unfortunate Clarke.
It probably wasn’t the way the youngster would have wanted to celebrate his 20th birthday but worse was to come as just a few minutes later the Latics were reduced to 10 men.
Wanderers have been on the end of a few harsh red card decisions this season and have discovered a newfound skill in appealing suspensions with the Football Association.
It seems unlikely Oldham will do the same after Kyle Jameson – a late replacement for Cameron Borthwick-Jackson – was ordered off for a scything challenge on Delfouneso.
The response from both the Bolton bench and the surrounding players was telling. If Evatt has struggled to bond this team together in the first half of the season, whatever he has done since January has worked a treat. They appealed as one and left referee James Oldham in absolutely no doubt.
The next question was whether this side could smell the blood in the water. So many times Evatt has been left questioning his players’ ruthlessness and whether they could have made some of the tighter scorelines easier for themselves. This time, he did not have to wait long for an answer.
Wanderers were moving with intent, shifting the ball from wing to wing and waiting for the gaps to appear. And when one did, they made it count.
Dapo Afolayan was the architect of the second goal but will probably think he should have claimed it. After a wonderful spell of possession, the West Ham youngster darted into space 20 yards out and crashed a shot against the inside of the post which dropped perfectly for Doyle to bury on the half volley.
The ball had hardly touched the back of the net by the time Evatt ran out to the edge of his technical area screaming at his players to press and hunt the ball again. The opportunity to improve that goal difference was there for all to see.
Wanderers knew they would have plenty of the ball in the second half but breaking through what had become a deeply entrenched Oldham backline proved problematic.
Doyle went close with a dipping free-kick which took a nick off the Oldham wall and Maddison dragged a shot wide after Bolton got a rare chance to counter with some blue shirts beyond the halfway line.
Evatt recognised an opportunity to save some energy with the weekend’s game against Bradford in mind and made his customary changes to the attacking quartet in the final 20 minutes.
Maddison could have made it three with 10 minutes left, picking off a loose pass to Nicky Adams he raced into the penalty box to draw keeper Ian Lawlor and squared a pass unselfishly to Shaun Miller and Sarcevic in the middle – unfortunately threading it between the pair of them and allowing Oldham to clear.
That Wanderers did not manage to add another goal in the second half will be the only source of frustration for Evatt on a night where his side were able to shift into neutral in the latter stages to see out the result.
The build-up at times was intricate and effective but the Bolton boss will know his side may need that extra gear before much longer with better opponents on the horizon.
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