Wanderers showed a stubbornness in their 1-1 draw against Ipswich that will serve them well as they aim to finish near the top end of League One.
Aaron Morley put the Whites in front from the penalty spot, but the hosts hit back through Lee Evans before half-time.
Ian Evatt’s men were on the back foot throughout the second half but managed to withstand a barrage of pressure from the hosts thanks to two big stops from James Trafford to deny Evans and Sam Morsy respectively.
Wanderers had similar performances at Sheffield Wednesday and Portsmouth, suffering narrow 1-0 defeats in both matches.
And while it is still early days, the Whites’ performance at Portman Road suggests they are a tougher nut to crack compared to 12 months ago.
Evatt’s men started brightly and the first chance fell to Dapo Afolayan, who managed to get on the end of Morley’s corner but couldn’t keep his header down.
Wes Burns then managed to get in behind the Bolton defence but Morley was well placed to cut out his low cross.
The first major talking point came midway through the first half when Conor Bradley won a penalty after he was brought down Leif Davis.
Morley made no mistake from the spot, beating Christian Walton low to his right with a clinical strike midway through the first half.
But Ipswich responded well to going a goal down and George Johnston had to make a vital block to deny Luke Woolfenden on the edge of the area.
The hosts managed to get back on level terms five minutes before the break when Evans fired home after Wanderers were caught out by Burns’ corner.
Bradley also made an important intervention to deny Freddie Ladapo from close range following a dangerous attack just before the break.
Early in the second half, Morsy tried his luck from distance but it wasn’t troubling James Trafford in the Bolton goal.
The Whites were then nearly undone by an identical corner to the equaliser but this time Evans’ shot was blocked.
And Trafford had to make a fine stop to keep out the midfielder’s looping header across goal from the resulting corner.
Just after the hour mark, John delivered a superb cross that narrowly evaded a couple of Bolton shirts before substitute Greg Leigh turned behind at the far post.
Leigh then volleyed wide from the edge of the box after Ricardo Santos had initially done well to clear a corner.
Evatt opted to rotate his frontline heading into the final stages, with Amadou Bakayoko, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Elias Kahcunga all coming on in place of Afolayan, Charles and Kieran Lee.
Burns’ header then had Trafford scrambling low to his right after flicking off Santos but it bounced wide of the post.
Inside the final 10 minutes, Evans sent a free-kick over the bar before Sone Aluko sliced wide from distance.
Kayden Jackson then got in behind on the right and played a low cross towards Tyreece John-Jules, but the Arsenal loanee was unable to make contact.
And the hosts kept applying pressure in stoppage time, with Trafford making another smart stop to deny Morsy, who looked certain to score.
But Wanderers survived a barrage of pressure in the final minutes to ensure they would return to the North West with a point.
Evatt’s men can play attacking, free-flowing football as well as anyone in League One on their day but being tough to break down is equally important, particularly when chasing promotion.
The opener was one of the toughest games of the season on paper, with Ipswich tipped as early promotion candidates after further improving their squad over the summer.
But the Whites can take encouragement from the way they refused to give up despite facing wave after wave of Ipswich attacks in front of more than 25,000 home fans.
Saturday’s fixture was also a reminder of the potential advantage clubs like Wanderers have this season, with five substitutions permitted per game.
Evatt and company have recruited well, particularly since January, and are now in a position where they can bring on players like Bakayoko and Bodvarsson for the final 20 minutes of games.
Moreover, the Bolton chief can mix and match his attacking options depending on the opposition and conditions, which was the case at times during the final weeks of last season.
The fact that Kieran Sadlier didn’t get on the pitch after his superb strike against Huddersfield Town also highlights Wanderers’ strength in depth.
The former Rotherham man finished last season strongly and is clearly a technically gifted player with an eye for goal.
But it is a long season and Wanderers will need to utilise their full squad if they are to be successful and build on their strong form since the turn of the year.
The debate over which position gets the best out of Dapo Afolayan will also continue, with the versatile forward playing alongside Dion Charles at Portman Road.
Some supporters have argued that the former West Ham man does not fit into Evatt’s current system and will be more effective on the left wing – a role he played regularly during the previous campaign.
But there is no denying that he possesses the skill and ability to pop up with a moment of magic in any game.
The fixture list is not getting any easier, with the likes of Wycombe, Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth all to play over the next month.
But if the Whites can keep picking up points from these types of games, it will give them a great platform to push on and really make a go of it over the coming season.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]