A relentless promotion march continued at the Peninsula Stadium with results elsewhere in the division again falling favourably for Ian Evatt’s men.
While it is tempting to suggest Bolton’s return to League One is written in the stars, a footballing karma to repay the years of misery and mismanagement under previous owners, inside the camp the mood is more practical.
As Gethin Jones straightforwardly put it, if Wanderers keep working as hard as they did at Salford, they will be in the top three on May 8.
It is that clean sheet-first mentality which has served the Whites well since they started to turn their season on its head in early February, and it seems unlikely to change in the final five games.
“We have been doing it the hard way, but we’re still doing it, aren’t we?” said the Liverpudlian full-back, one of the most consistent characters in a hugely changeable campaign.
“The pleasing thing is that Salford was the 16th clean sheet of the season, so to go to such a tough place and get a result like that shows a lot.
“When we got off the pitch we checked what had happened elsewhere. You can’t really stop it – but the first thing we said in the dressing room after Salford was ‘let’s get home and start working for Grimsby’.
“We want to get this job done. And the way we played at Salford is the way we will have to play in every game until we are definitely up.”
The first of the 16 clean sheets arrived in October against Grimsby, then managed by Ian Holloway and only recently back from a lengthy Covid absence in the fixture list.
Since then the Mariners have struggled on and off the pitch and are now scrapping to retain their EFL status, regained in 2016.
“Grimsby will be a different type of game because they are battling to stay in the league and it’ll be a win at all costs, they probably won’t play as much football as Salford did,” Jones observed.
“Every game throws up different challenges for us but it comes down to working hard. The running stats have been through the roof recently so if we carry on with that we’ll come away winning more often than not.
“We played Barrow, we played Colchester at home, those teams sat deep and made it difficult for us but I think we have learned how to deal with that now. We know we have to move the ball quicker, not slow around the back, and if we can get players running in behind then there will be spaces for the midfielders to get on the ball.
“We might need to be patient but I think we understand better how to beat that sort of team now.”
Wanderers have increasingly found opponents ready to stifle, rather than attack, which Jones admits has thrown up some challenges. “I think since we went on that long run, every opposition has been wary of us,” he said. “Even in the first 20 minutes against Salford I felt they were a bit scared of us, so we got chances. It was only when we scored that they came at us a bit more.
“Every team in this league is expecting us to come out flying and be dominating games but we know Saturday will be a test. Grimsby are fighting to stay in this league and we need to concentrate on what we are doing, complete the job.”
Jones reckons the response to Bolton’s only defeat since February, at Newport on Easter Monday, emphasises the mental strength in the dressing room.
“We came from that Newport game and didn’t understand how we had lost it,” he said. “First half we should have been four up but that happens.
“We were still happy on the bus back. That long run we’d been on, where we came from, we were made up. It was a case of starting another one, and we did.”