Boss Ian Evatt welcomed a ‘huge win’ as a re-shaped back line and a 20-goal striker secured another precious three points for Wanderers in their play-off push.
Dion Charles became the first Wanderers’ player in 23 years to reach the 20-goal mark with the early strike that was enough to give the Whites a 1-0 victory at Oxford United.
Evatt’s men then had to dig deep to repel an attempted comeback from the home side and ride out a partial second-half siege as a 20th clean sheet of the season – with MJ Williams filling in at centre-back – guaranteeing the result which lifted Wanderers up to fifth place in the table.
“You have to do that at this stage of the season,” said a delighted Evatt, who confirmed that on loan defender Luke Mbete is set to be out for between four and six weeks with a knee injury.
“It’s an unbelievable result really. It wasn’t our fluid selves but when you’ve got four centre-backs injured and you’ve got the injuries we’ve got at the moment you have to find a different way to win.
“I thought the first 20 minutes was very good. We got ourselves ahead and managed to ride it out, which is a great result at this stage of the season.
“They gave it their absolute everything and I’m really proud of how they battled today.
“Oxford had drawn their four games under Liam (Manning) and two of those had been away at Peterborough and here against Sheffield Wednesday, so they’re a good team and they’re getting things together, so for us to come here and win today was a superb effort.
“I’m super proud of the players. That’s three games without our captain and Toaly, who has been playing outstandingly well and we’ve only conceded one goal in the 95th minute.
“It shows the quality in the group. Geth and Jonno were absolutely brilliant and MJ playing out of position, fantastic. To go and play centre-back for the first time in years with one or two days practise is a brilliant effort.”
While Wanderers’ defensive grit and determination got them over the line, it was a historic goal from Charles that allowed Wanderers to make it back-to-back away wins and move two points clear inside the play-off zone with a game in hand over the chasing pack.
“Great credit to him. I had belief that he would do it and it’s great to do it with five games left,” added Evatt.
“But from Dion’s perspective that isn’t job done. We require him to score more goals and still improve in every aspect of his game.
“That’s what we want from a Bolton Wanderers’ player. He’ll enjoy tonight because that’s a milestone for a centre-forward and if no player has done it for 22 years for Bolton, then great credit to him.”