RELEGATION inched closer for Wanderers with defeat against rock-bottom Ipswich Town, leaving Phil Parkinson surveying one of his darkest weeks in football.

The Bolton boss was inconsolable after watching his side well-beaten by the Tractor Boys on home turf, a lethargic performance he admitted had been largely due to poor preparation.

Unpaid players went on strike for 48 hours in midweek, refusing to report to training in support of other staff who had not received their March wages.

And though their moral stance was backed by fans at the time, Parkinson concedes it left his team at a significant disadvantage in a game they could ill-afford to lose.

Wanderers are eight points from safety with six games to play, meaning they could theoretically be relegated next weekend at Derby County, depending on results elsewhere.

“It was a crushing blow,” Parkinson said, as two first-half goals from Ipswich’s Huddersfield Town loanee Colin Quaner stunned his side.

“I’m just so disappointed because you have to prepare properly. Sometimes you go out there on the pitch and there’s a ready-made excuse in the back of your mind and we just didn’t have any intensity in our play, closing down, sharpness on the ball. The amount of times we got the ball caught under our feet and gave it away in that first half was incredible.

“We were better in the second half but we shouldn’t need 45 minutes to get ourselves going.”

Nearly 18,000 fans watched the game, which had twice been on the verge of postponement because of safety concerns and a huge system failure.

Ipswich boss Paul Lambert branded the pre-match uncertainty “a disgrace” but after finally getting the green light to play, home supporters left feeling a sense of frustration voiced with loud jeers at half and full time.

“You can’t blame them,” Parkinson said. “They are disappointed and I’d be the same.”

Gary O’Neil could be a doubt for Tuesday night’s home game against Middlesbrough after leaving the field in the first half through illness.

Substitutes Luca Connell, Erhun Oztumer and Craig Noone all made a claim for a first team recall.