Wanderers missed out on a big chance to edge closer to the top six after slipping to a 2-0 defeat at third-placed MK Dons.
Mo Eisa and Scott Twine did the damage – and leaving aside the issues Ian Evatt had with referee Seb Stockbridge, there was plenty to discuss about the performance.
Here are five takeaways from Stadium MK.
HUMAN, AFTER ALL.
James Trafford had a tremendous start to his Bolton Wanderers career, becoming the first keeper ever to keep four clean sheets in his first four games.
But as any player will tell you, the good times only last for so long before a challenge presents itself – and his mistake in possession in the build-up to MK’s second goal is one he will have to ride out.
The reaction, much more than the error, will tell us exactly what this young man is all about.
Kyle Dempsey was one of the livelier players in the first half, with 70 per cent of his touches made in MK territory – more than any Bolton player, with the exception of striker Amadou Bakayoko. And that total actually improved in the second half despite the introduction of Dapo Afolayan in the number 10 role, which pushed Dempsey deeper in midfield.
The former Gillingham man looks eager to impress but Wanderers have yet to find the ideal spot for him, or a balance that can play to everyone’s strengths.
Dempsey now has to show he can pick up different midfield roles than he did at his former club, where he was primarily played as a number eight.
February was a long old month, at least in football terms.
Eight games over the course of four weeks had a visible effect on some of the players, and particularly those who have yet to play a full season of senior football at League One level.
This week presents an opportunity to recover and prepare for the weekend, where hosts Gillingham will have no airs or graces. It will be a scrap.
Make the day-off count, boys.
Defeat at MK Dons felt a little self-inflicted. Trafford’s mis-placed pass in the second half killed what had been a stirring fightback either side of half time, but there were signs early in the second half that Bolton were starting to find some rhythm.
Taking out a poor opening half an hour, Bolton had more shots on goal, more possession and a better pass completion. The result will sting, yet when Ian Evatt analyses the performance he will see aspects that please him, particularly against one of the division’s in-form teams.
The big man was back in the side after being given the night off against Lincoln to be with his partner for the birth of their second son.
There may have been sleepless nights but he didn’t miss a beat, competing well against one of the best front lines in the division.
Wanderers want him to commit to a longer contract and, for now, the defender said he wanted to concentrate on the run-in before taking the matter further.
Championship eyes have been on him – but Santos has been here from the start of Ian Evatt’s journey and knows better than most what Bolton Wanderers have to offer.
That he doesn’t want to rush in to sign a new deal should not be regarded as a slight, it is a sensible move which allows him to focus completely on the 11 remaining games.
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