Bolton manager Ian Evatt praised Aaron Collins after the 2-0 win at Bristol Rovers.

Following a hat-trick against Reading on Easter Monday, Collins opened the scoring against Rovers, the club he left on February 1, with a 52nd-minute dinked finish.

Cameron Jerome won a penalty in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time to allow Aaron Morley to wrap up the victory and put Wanderers just a point off the League One automatic promotion spots.

“We lacked fluidity but we didn’t lack courage, desire and bravery – and it was a moment of real quality from Aaron which was exactly why we brought him in. A cool, calm finish,” explained Evatt.

“To be composed to lift it over the goalkeeper at that stage of the game with so much on the line for us was real quality and I’m pleased for him, with Cameron Jerome coming on in the final minutes to get us over the line.

“The most important thing was for us to win the game and we did that. We managed to be resolute. We dug in and did the hard yards at times. It was really difficult conditions out there, the wind really affected the game,” added Evatt, as Bolton won for the first time in seven away games.

Bristol Rovers were shut out for a sixth game in a row, having not scored since March 2.

However the Gas did play well and created enough chances to have taken something from the game, with Chris Martin’s stooping header clawed from off the goal-line, and Luke Thomas and Antony Evans both drawing good first-half saves from Nathan Baxter.

Rovers manager Matt Taylor pointed to his side’s inexperience, with no wins in Rovers’ last six games.

“It was harsh but yet another lesson learned in terms of the moment of the goals, it is just too poor from us in understanding what is needed at that moment,” he said.

“It’s young players involved and we know they make mistakes but we’re learning the hard way at the moment.

“I’ve got to be careful. That’s what happens when the inexperience factor is there.

“Too many times we’re defensively sound as a team and then suddenly we’re behind and chasing a game.”

Ian Evatt claimed his Bolton side looked fearful after a goalless draw at Stevenage left them six points adrift of the League One automatic promotion places.

Both sides had their chances to snatch a win, with Will Forrester smacking the crossbar for Wanderers in the first half and Boro’s Ben Thompson slipping late on when he looked set to punish Ricardo Santos’ sloppy pass.

The stalemate saw Wanderers slip further away from the automatic spots with six games remaining and Bolton manager Evatt was left concerned at how tentative his team were at Stevenage.

“We looked a fearful team,” he said.

“I thought we looked like we were afraid to lose and the type of team we want to be is fearless and forward-thinking.

“It had a feeling that it was ours to lose but at the minute it isn’t ours to lose, it is somebody else’s. There is no given right but it was an important point.”

As the season approaches its climax, Evatt is aware that the margin for error gets slimmer even though they have a game in hand on second-place Derby, with Reading next up on Monday.

He added: “These players are playing under huge pressure.

“We want to leave the excuses and go out and perform and it felt like we were petrified of giving something away.

“There is an opportunity and it is still wide open, we have to be the fearless team I want us to be.”

Stevenage forced Bolton into errors and Thompson had an opportunity to snatch victory after Jordan Roberts intercepted Santos’ pass, but the midfielder lost his footing as he shot.

The point meant that Stevenage’s winless run extended to six games, but Steve Evans is keen for his side to live in the moment as they fight Oxford and Lincoln for the last play-off spot.

Evans said: “We had the difficult game of the weekend. We had Bolton Wanderers. I thought Lincoln would win and they did, and I thought Oxford United would win at Shrewsbury (they drew).

“We head to the Valley and if someone said to me four weeks ago, four months ago, two years ago, Stevenage are going to go to Charlton on Easter Monday and are fighting for the play-offs in League One, it wouldn’t be thinkable.

“We are here on merit, we have good players. You can see how our club is run compared to other clubs in this league.

“So, from our point of view, we have a fantastic structure, we are in a fantastic place and we are really embracing every minute of this.”

Derby head coach Paul Warne applauded goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith for his part in a crucial 1-0 victory over League One promotion rivals Bolton.

Wildsmith made several outstanding saves before Kane Wilson’s header settled a tense contest at a packed Pride Park.

Bolton will look back on several moments, notably when Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s 17th-minute header was brilliantly saved by Wildsmith.

Bodvarsson was again denied by Wilsdmith early in the second half and George Thomason saw his curling shot in the 64th minute turned behind.

Wildsmith’s reactions were rewarded when Wilson scored with Derby’s first effort on target in the 78th minute, clinching a victory that took County four points clear of Bolton with seven games to play.

Warne said: “Joe pulled us out, we congratulated him after the game which is unheard of, managers congratulating goalkeepers, but he pulled off two unbelievable saves.

“One in the first half from a header, as soon as the cross came in I just thought it was going to hit the net so that’s a great save and one in the second half as well, so Joe has been part of a decent team performance.

“We just had enough to win. There wasn’t anything in it really. Joe made two great saves and it always felt like it was going to come down to one set piece. In really tight games a set piece goal can win you it and today it did.

“If I was in the other dressing room I’d be disappointed that I wasn’t leaving with a point because I thought the game probably was a draw, but to win and keep a clean sheet is crucial.”

Bolton manager Ian Evatt is not giving up hope of earning automatic promotion.

“It’s not over, there’s a lot of football to be played, we have to stay calm and keep the faith,” he said.

“Nobody in the stadium could agree that Derby deserved to win the game. We were completely dominant. I think it was the first time in our final third second half with the corner and we’ve conceded a poor goal.

“I’m proud of the way the players played, obviously the result matters and it makes it more difficult for us, but there’s loads of football to be played and a long way to go.

“We had the better chances, their keeper is probably man of the match which speaks volumes. Football isn’t fair sometimes, but the most important thing for us is to keep believing.”

Kane Wilson’s header gave Derby a 1-0 victory over promotion rivals Bolton at a packed Pride Park.

Wilson struck with 12 minutes remaining to earn the Rams a four-point cushion in the battle for automatic promotion.

In front of over 32,000, the biggest attendance in League One this season, Bolton had the first chance when Nathanael Ogbeta crossed and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s header was brilliantly saved by Joe Wildsmith.

Derby striker Dwight Gayle limped off in the 21st minute but the home side had a good chance soon after from a Joe Ward free-kick which Curtis Nelson headed over.

Bolton ended the first half strongly and Derby made three changes for the second, although it was the visitors who threatened with Bodvarsson forcing Wildsmith into another good save.

Wildsmith denied George Thomason in the 64th minute but against the run of play it was Derby who broke the deadlock when Wilson headed in Callum Elder’s pinpoint corner.

The home side protected their lead despite fierce late pressure to leave Bolton third and without a league victory at Derby since 1981.

Exeter manager Gary Caldwell piled praise on 19-year-old Sonny Cox after his double earned a 2-2 draw with Bolton – and then joked he was pleased to have already tied the forward to a new contract.

The promotion-chasing Trotters were in complete control of the first half but led only 1-0 courtesy of Paris Maghoma’s strike.

Within 10 seconds of the restart Cox lashed a stunning dipping half-volley into the net to draw Exeter level and four minutes later he held off Ricardo Santos before drilling a superb left-footed shot into the net from 20 yards to turn the game on its head.

Bolton recovered to earn a point through Eoin Toal’s late header, but there was no doubting the star of the show.

“The first goal gave us belief and hope in the game and it was a fantastic finish,” Caldwell said. “His composure, his quality – the keeper probably makes it easier for him, but he still has a lot to do to put it in the goal and it was fantastic.

“His second goal – you probably won’t see a better goal than that in League One all season in terms of a number nine playing against a very quick centre-half, knows he is coming down on him, but the way he shifted the ball from in to out to open up the angle and then the quality of the strike, the power, the precision – it was a sensational goal.

“I am delighted for him and I am delighted we got his contract signed before he did it! There are many more goals to come from Sonny Cox in red and white.

“The early goal helped with that and in the second half we stepped on to things, we were much more aggressive and played the way we wanted to play and we caused them all sorts of problems.”

Bolton boss Ian Evatt was left to rue not putting the game to bed after such a dominant first half from his side.

“In the first half we were fantastic, dominated the game and had massive control, but when you have that much dominance and control you have to turn that into reward and goals and we didn’t,” he said.

“At half-time it was silent here because we had that much control and dominance and we conceded an absolutely crazy goal after half-time. We didn’t reset, that is a collective issue, and then it becomes two, which is unacceptable.

“But, again, great credit to them. They have somehow found a way to rally last 15 minutes and looked the most likely to win it after the equaliser.

“We have hit the bar and had other opportunities where we have not linked that final pass or our finishing has been off.

“That was the case on Tuesday in the second half and we have to be better. When you are away from home and dominate like that, you have to turn it into goals and we didn’t.”

Bolton rescued a dramatic late point in a 2-2 draw at Exeter following a rousing second half.

Bolton were in almost complete control of the first period but only had one goal to show for their efforts, Alan Sheehan pulling the ball back for Paris Maghoma to sweep in from 12 yards after 34 minutes.

Exeter levelled within 10 seconds of the restart as, from kick-off, Ben Purrington headed a Pierce Sweeney long ball into the path of Sonny Cox and he lobbed Joel Coleman from 20 yards.

Exeter went 2-1 up four minutes later when Cox was played in on goal and he lashed a stunning left-footed shot into the roof of the net.

Cox was denied a hat-trick by Coleman’s instinctive close-range save, but Bolton levelled in the 88th minute when Jack Iredale delivered a superb cross which was headed in by Eoin Toal.

Substitute Mo Eisa almost won it in stoppage time for Exeter, but his shot on the turn was superbly saved by Coleman, while Iredale was denied by an equally good save by Vili Sinisalo at the other end in a breathless finish to the match.

Bolton head coach Ian Evatt felt his side should have won at Barnsley after seeing them come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2, with the equaliser coming deep into time added on.

Goals from John McAtee (25) and Donovan Pines (47) put the home side in control before Victor Adeboyejo pulled a goal back.

Randell Williams then levelled in the eighth minute of added time, following up to score after Josh Sheehan’s penalty was saved.

Evatt said: “I have some frustrations tonight because that’s a game we should have won.

“I think for the first 20/25 minutes, we were dominant and we started to build momentum and had one or two opportunities.

“We do a lot of diligent work on the opposition and their strategy and we knew we’d find it really tough to play our usual build-up because they’re really aggressive in the press.

“We knew they’d commit bodies forward and leave Aaron (Collins) and Victor two-for-two in huge space and we just had to put the ball into good areas with quality and we did that.

“The first (goal), we made a bad decision and played inside, we concede a goal, which completely rocks us. Then we lost our marbles for probably the next 15/20 minutes.

“We got into half-time and gave them the same messages again. And then we come out and we play another pass inside, when it should go into the space behind. It ends up in a corner and we end up 2-0 down.

“Great credit to the players that they’ve shown immense belief and character. We get the first one back and then it’s just a matter of time. We missed too many gilt-edged opportunities.

“They kept fighting, they kept believing and in the end they got at least what they deserved.”

Barnsley boss Neill Collins was disappointed to let a two-goal lead slip but refused to get too downhearted.

He said: “It’s disappointing because you’re 2-0 up and you’ve had a fantastic performance, probably to the 85th minute.

“And then really they came on top. We’re all really disappointed because we wanted to be celebrating three points and for large parts of the game, we probably deserved three points.

“We were up against a really good side. One they get the goal to go 2-1, you’re going to be under pressure. I think we could have handled it a little better.

“We’ve got to be really careful that we don’t feel disappointed too long because we’ve got 11 games left and we’re a point closer to where we need to be.

“I think we’ve got to take the positives as always and learn some harsh lessons as well.

“If we continue to improve, we’ll be there or thereabouts.”

Bolton came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Barnsley with substitute Randell Williams equalising deep into time added on.

Goals from John McAtee and Donovan Pines put the home side in control before Victor Adeboyejo and Williams scored to level the scores.

McAtee struck the opener after 25 minutes, slotting past Joel Coleman after the ball fell to him when Mael de Gevigney blocked George Thomason’s clearance.

Pines then produced an emphatic finish just after the break, with the ball going in off the underside of the bar, following Luca Connell’s corner.

Liam Roberts came to Barnsley’s rescue, saving Thomason’s shot with his legs.

Bolton pulled a goal back when Thomason found Aaron Collins, whose ball across the face of goal was met by a close-range finish from Adeboyejo in the 62nd minute.

Bolton’s Jon Dadi Bodvarsson went close to scoring a minute from time with a shot which hit a post.

A penalty at the death, awarded following a foul, was taken by Josh Sheehan and saved by Roberts, but Williams followed up to score in the eighth minute of added time.

Aaron Collins opened his Bolton goalscoring account but manager Ian Evatt believes the best is yet to come from the former Bristol Rovers star.

Collins’ 66th-minute strike sealed a 2-0 victory for promotion hunting Wanderers, bouncing back after successive defeats to Blackpool and Wigan.

George Thomason set Evatt’s side on the way to a badly needed win with his fifth of the campaign 10 minutes from the break.

“It was important for Aaron to get off the mark so I am pleased for him,” said Evatt.

“To come to a massive club with a large price tag for the level and the huge weight of expectation is sometimes a difficult thing to do.

“Aaron has moved away from home and living in and out of hotels can be tough. He needs time to settle down.

“In the second half we saw more of the Aaron Collins of what we are going to see in the future. He has real quality but we haven’t seen the best of him.”

Evatt finally managed a smile after a week he described as feeling “like a lifetime. It’s been a harsh few days but the players responded great.

“The only criticism is we want more reward for our good play and hard work.

“We deserved more goals and could have made it more comfortable for everyone. But the win is the most important thing.”

Thomason’s goal was his fifth of the season but he later took an unwanted piece of club history.

His 70th-minute challenge on James Brophy yielded a 17th yellow card of the campaign, one more than the record he previously shared with El Hadji Diouf.

Brophy went closest to equalising for otherwise-disappointing Cambridge just before the hour.

The miss was compounded when Collins turned in Paris Maghoma’s pass six minutes later and then had another effort kicked off the line.

“We did as much as we could,” said United interim boss Barry Corr. “You have to respect the opponent.

“They ask loads of questions of you and create overloads all over the pitch.

“In the first half we were pinned into a lower block and maybe became passive. But in terms of effort and application they were spot on.

“The better team won, however the result away to Bolton isn’t going to determine our season.”

Corr has been in temporary charge for three games since Neil Harris’s shock return to Millwall.

“The players need some stability and (a new manager) will definitely help them,” Corr added. “I would imagine it will be from Monday.”

Former Swansea and Leeds boss Garry Monk is the favourite to take over.

Aaron Collins scored his first goal for Bolton as they rejuvenated their automatic promotion hopes with a comfortable 2-0 Sky Bet League One win over Cambridge.

Collins had gone seven appearances since making his move from Bristol Rovers without breaking his duck until netting a 66h-minute match-clinching goal from Paris Maghoma’s assist.

The Welshman had another effort kicked off the line by Liam Bennett as Wanderers returned to winning ways after back-to-back losses at Blackpool and Wigan.

But Ian Evatt’s side never looked likely to suffer a third successive defeat.

Josh Dacres-Cogley crashed a Collins cross onto the bar after seven minutes and Jack Stevens saved from Dacres-Cogley and Ricardo Santos.

Midfielder George Thomason’s right-footed, 18-yard low drive and fifth goal of the campaign finally fired Bolton in front after 35 minutes.

Cambridge, beaten 2-1 when the teams met last month, went close to a 59th-minute equaliser as James Brophy fired narrowly over from Sullay Kaikai’s cross.

Instead, Collins doubled Bolton’s lead to keep the Trotters hard on the heels of top two Peterborough and Derby.

Ian Evatt insisted he was ‘baffled’ as to how Bolton did not pick up all three points at neighbours Wigan – let alone coming away from a feisty Sky Bet League One fixture with nothing.

Stephen Humphrys’ 69th-minute goal was enough to settle a stirring Lancashire derby at the DW Stadium, and see the Latics record a league double over their neighbours.

But while Wigan’s victory last August had been a 4-0 romp, this time Bolton had the upper hand for three-quarters of the game – without managing to translate that onto the scoreboard.

It left them wide open to a sucker punch which further dents their promotion hopes.

“We controlled it, it was one team trying to win and the other one trying to survive,” said Evatt.

“Football, as I have said before, is a really harsh industry.

“I am the first to say when we have not performed, and we performed. The only thing missing was the goal.

“We had chances and they just didn’t go in. Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve.

“But there isn’t a man in the stadium that can honestly say that we didn’t deserve to win that game.”

The evening ended with the majority of players from either side involved in a melee that saw both managers having to get involved.

“We won’t accept one of their players celebrating in front of our supporters,” added Evatt. “Go and celebrate with your own fans, no issue with that, but not ours.

“You certainly shouldn’t be celebrating when you are mid-table.”

Opposite number Shaun Maloney countered: “I think their manager thought one of our players was over-celebrating in the far corner.

“But there’s no hard feelings on either side, these are just emotional moments.”

On his side’s victory, Maloney added: “We obviously had to defend for long periods. But I really liked some of the things we did in the first half with the ball, without creating a lot.

“Both teams were trying to play through each other, and I thought they were really good with the ball.

“I had to respect the players they have – I think they have a lot of good attacking players – and we tried to get pressure high up.

“At times it worked, and at times it didn’t work. But in that last 20 minutes or so, we had to defend and in fairness to the lads, I thought they were brilliant.

“It was tough, really tough out there and they really dug deep.

“It was a derby and in these types of games, particularly being at home, you give absolutely everything… every tackle, every header, you give it your all.

“In terms of tactical things, the fans aren’t going to worry… as long as they see their players giving their all, they’re happy – and they did.

“Trust me, I would have liked more of the ball but it was tough out there and we needed the fans, particularly near the end.

“Some of the lads were on their knees at the end and they take all the credit there, along with the fans.”

Bolton suffered a huge blow to their promotion hopes as Wigan completed a Sky Bet League One double over their neighbours thanks to a Stephen Humphrys goal at the DW Stadium.

Bolton created the first chance when Paris Maghoma burst his way past Luke Chambers only to be denied by Sam Tickle.

The visitors were then hampered by the loss of Carlos Mendes Gomes to injury in pretty innocuous fashion, but they continued to boss proceedings.

And defender Eoin Toal had two great chances, heading over from a right-wing cross before seeing a long-range strike well saved by Tickle.

The second half was the same story as Nathaniel Ogbeta’s shot was tipped round the post by Tickle, who then turned away a dangerous free-kick by Josh Sheehan.

At this point, Wigan had not registered an attempt on goal, but that changed on 69 minutes when substitute Humphrys – who had scored twice in August’s 4-0 away win – played a one-two with Chambers before prodding the ball under Joel Coleman.

Wigan had chances to kill off the game too, with Thelo Aasgaard’s volley forcing a brilliant save from Coleman before another substitute, Martial Godo, poked the ball just wide.

Bolton had a great chance to level with two minutes to go, only for Ricardo Santos to head wide from four yards, with most of the players on the pitch being embroiled in a melee on the full-time whistle.

Bolton boss Ian Evatt praised his patient match-winner Carlos Mendes Gomes after seeing his side dispatch Cambridge 2-1 and close in on the League One automatic-promotion places.

Mendes Gomes has had a stop-start season since joining the Trotters from Luton last summer, but found the net in the 63rd minute to secure the points for his side which took them level with second-placed Derby.

Cambridge had hit the front in the first half thanks to an Eoin Toal own goal, but Bolton levelled after the break through Paris Maghoma before Mendes Gomes volleyed the winner from Josh Sheehan’s fine pass.

Evatt said: “Carlos has had injuries and he’s had to wait for that moment, and he’s taken his chance superbly.

“We know he has the quality to do that – he can play a number of positions and can hurt teams in the final third – that’s why we chased him for four years before signing him.”

Overall Evatt was happy with how his side recovered after falling behind early on.

“We gave ourselves a mountain to climb, but the boys showed their character and resilience,” he said.

“It’s tough being at the top of the league – the pressure is on but we keep finding the right solutions.”

Cambridge were rewarded for a bright start in the ninth minute when Sullay Kaikai latched on to a loose pass from Maghoma and drove in a low cross which flicked off Toal and looped over goalkeeper Joel Coleman.

Kaikai then saw a shot parried by Coleman, while at the other end Jack Stevens denied Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and made a comfortable save from Nathan Ogbeta’s effort.

Bolton started the second half on the front foot, and equalised when a 52nd-minute corner was flicked on by Gethin Jones into the path of Maghoma, who touched home.

Eleven minutes later Sheehan was given time and space to pick out the run of Mendes Gomes, who caught the ball perfectly as it dropped over his shoulder to beat Stevens.

Cambridge should have equalised when substitute Jack Lankester shot wide from 12 yards in the 84th minute, and the night got worse for the U’s late on when Lyle Taylor was shown a red card for an off-the-ball clash with Bolton defender Jack Iredale.

United manager Neil Harris said he did not see the red-card incident, but was happy with his side’s efforts.

“I think we played really well in the first half, and finished the game strongly, but the 20 minutes at the start of the second half were disappointing,” he said.

“They’re the best possession-based team in the league and I thought we gave a good account of ourselves, but the disappointment is the equaliser; you can’t get beaten from a set-play so easily.”

Bolton came from behind with two goals in 11 second-half minutes to beat Cambridge 2-1 and close in on the League One automatic-promotion places.

Paris Maghoma and Carlos Mendes Gomes both struck to give the Trotters a victory which took them level with second-placed Derby, who have played one game more.

Cambridge had defended solidly for much of the first half, having taken a ninth-minute lead. Maghoma gave the ball away to Sullay Kaikai, whose low cross looped in off Bolton defender Eoin Toal.

Kaikai saw a shot parried by Joel Coleman, while at the other end Jack Stevens made a comfortable save from Nathan Ogbeta’s low effort.

Bolton started the second half on the front foot, and were rewarded when a 52nd-minute corner was flicked into the path of Maghoma, who touched home.

Eleven minutes later Josh Sheehan was given time and space to pick out the run of Mendes Gomes, who volleyed in from close range.

Cambridge forward Lyle Taylor was shown a late red card for an off-the-ball clash with defender Jack Iredale.

Ian Evatt was seething for a second successive weekend despite Bolton battling back twice to deny opposite number Nathan Jones his first win as Charlton boss in a 3-3 draw.

Evatt was sent off and then later charged with allegedly using foul and abusive language during his team’s draw at Northampton last Saturday.

And he was livid once more as referee Ross Joyce did not stop play for a head injury to Josh Dacres-Cogley in the build-up to Daniel Kanu putting Charlton 3-2 ahead after 61 minutes.

Substitute Jon Dadi Bodvarsson rescued a point for promotion-chasing Bolton 19 minutes from time.

Victor Adeboyejo had put the home side 1-0 up but the Addicks led 2-1 at the break through Thierry Small’s first goal for the club on debut and Lloyd Jones.

Paris Maghoma scored a spectacular equaliser six minutes after the interval only for Kanu to cap a fine display with a low shot that went in off a post.

“He (Dacres-Cogley) landed on his head,” claimed Evatt. “He is clearly holding his head. He is down on the floor.

“We know the impact of head injuries and how serious they can be. At that point no-one could have known how serious it could be.

“The referee told me he (Dacres-Cogley) had sat up. But I have watched the footage back after the game and he didn’t at any stage.

“A few ricochets later it is in the back of the net. It is baffling considering what happened with their goalkeeper at the end.”

With Bolton pressing for a winner referee Joyce halted play to allow treatment to Charlton keeper Harry Isted.

“It doesn’t matter whether it is a goalkeeper or not; it’s not a head injury,” argued Evatt, who also claimed he heard “bad language” directed at the officials.

“It just feels like the world is going against us with decisions, with suspension and with injuries. We have lost four key members to our team.”

Charlton chief Jones was full of praise for his team’s point ahead of games against Bolton’s promotion rivals Portsmouth and Derby.

But he claimed not to have seen anything untoward before Kanu scored.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “Well done, that’s one thing he (Mr Joyce) gave us today.

“I didn’t see it. I thought it was a good goal.

“To come here and to score three against one of the best and arguably the best footballing side in the division and to be able to do what we did showed we are progressing.

“It was a positive performance, it was an energetic performance and at no point did we look to contain.”

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