HARSH reality has set in at Bolton Wanderers over the past week but it isn’t all doom and gloom.

Delayed pay last week highlights a worrying cash-flow problem and potentially more severe issues under the guidance of Ken Anderson, conspicuous by his absence in this game in particular.

The league table tells you all you need to know about a team low on confidence, which has won one or its last 16 matches, or a manager under significant pressure from fans to turn it around.

But two things shone through brighter than the floodlights on a gloomy December afternoon on Saturday which give you some hope this season is not about to fall apart at the seams in the same way it did three years ago.

When staff were told – by email, not in person – that their November wage would not necessarily be in their bank account on Friday, the response was not to down tools and mope, but to soldier on. Tickets were printed, floors were swept, programmes were stacked, a pitch was prepared, just as normal.

Thankfully, the payment issue was sorted by close of business on Friday. The instant response to knuckle down, however, tells you a lot about the people who work behind the scenes.

Phil Parkinson’s squad and coaching staff were told – via a phone-call, not in person - that their money would not arrive until Thursday. But their response against Wigan was equally impressive, given the circumstances.

A draw was not a spectacular result to shout from the rooftops, and nor was the performance, yet considering what many of us were fearing 24 hours before kick-off the outcome was a refreshing surprise.

Crisis management has become Parkinson’s forte. Whereas Wanderers lost their way completely under the stewardship of Neil Lennon when financial hardship bit hard in 2015/16, there is little question of things getting so far out of hand here.

Considering confidence is so important to a footballer, and the results they earn on the pitch have such a huge bearing on the success and failure of a club as a business, it is difficult to fathom why such things are allowed to escalate, without a suffucient explanation.

Fans seem to have become rather ambivalent to news of quibbles with pay and bonuses, but standards at a club like Bolton Wanderers should be much, much higher.

Gradually they have been eroded as budgets have been systematically shaved, leading to an increase in these minor inconveniences and steady decline in morale. Unpaid bonuses, cold showers, players forced to stand on trains to Millwall, problems with food orders at the training ground, delayed invoices – all inconsequential in isolation but damaging when stacked up.

And it does not just apply to players, who clearly have the thick end of the wage wedge. It is understood that Parkinson and his coaching staff have not been paid their bonus for keeping the club in the Championship last season… Hardly just reward for an act which saved millions in the long run?

Parkinson has kept his own counsel, only the merest hint of frustration seeping into his post-match interview.

“When you go to work on Monday morning and haven’t been paid then think to yourself ‘what would I be feeling like?’ I’d be pretty demotivated,” reflected the manager after the game. “But the lads put it to one side and I am very pleased we put in that performance, even though it was only a point.”

Another harsh reality for Bolton is that they look like they are destined for another relegation scrap.

Early season form may have hinted at more but with no guarantees of being able to strengthen the squad in January it seems difficult at this juncture to believe there is anything more in store.

This game summed up the grit, the commitment and the character within the Wanderers squad but also the lack of quality to push them higher up the league table.

Will Buckley’s well-taken goal seven minutes in, guided superbly in from an angle after chesting down Pawel Olkowski’s cross, was a rare moment of perfect execution.

At other times Wanderers got themselves into good positions but lacked that crucial moment of precision.

There was a glimpse of promise in the opening 45 minutes as Sammy Ameobi, played centrally behind Christian Doidge, combined well with his new strike partner.

Buckley and the tireless Craig Noone – backed by a fresh-looking Olkowski – worked the wide areas well, and for a while it appeared we would get a stunning riposte to a difficult week.

Things came crashing back down to earth when Wigan were awarded a contentious penalty, scored by Will Grigg. Referee Simon Hooper then guaranteed he would be the villain in panto season by turning down a Bolton claim minutes from full time for an apparent handball by Sam Morsy.

There is a question of whether Jack Hobbs needed to go to ground to make his first-half challenge on Grigg as he veered away from goal – but little question it was immaculate. How Hooper or his assistant standing 15 yards away can think otherwise is worrying.

The second penalty is more subjective. Mark Beevers hooked a far-post volley back towards Sam Morsy, whose arms were more geared towards a chorus of the Village People, but his close proximity to the Bolton player definitely played on the referee’s mind.

Parkinson argued later that after giving one contentious decision in the first half that Hooper should have ‘levelled it up’ – but if referees are ever going to achieve any consistency, it would surely have been better to see both incidents ignored altogether.

In between the two penalty incidents, Wigan probably deserved their share of the points.

Wanderers became a little aimless once Buckley had succumbed to a thigh problem and Ameobi had moved out wide – slowing down to a crawl as he feels his way back to full fitness.

Josh Windass was particularly wasteful for the injury-hit Latics, who avoided a record-setting eighth away defeat on the spin.

Doidge, full of running throughout, even hooked a late cross off the line with Lee Evans waiting to pounce for the winner.

Though referee Hooper arguably distracted attention on the day, another huge bonus for Wanderers is the unwavering support they get on a weekly basis. Social media may be acerbic at times, and there is no hiding frustration at the club’s current struggles, but fans have been incredibly even-handed in the circumstances – and were again on Saturday at the University of Bolton Stadium.