THERE was plenty to consider for players and management as the rain battered down on the Bolton team bus on its journey back north on Saturday night.

Concessions have been made and will continue to be made for Keith Hill’s side for the dramatic way they were thrown together on deadline day.

More than 800 fans made a 500-mile round trip, showing once again they appreciate there is a club to support, to their eternal credit.

New ownership have given hope to everyone concerned that the future of Bolton Wanderers is a bright one, or that history will repeat itself and after hitting rock bottom they could be at the start of another upward arc.

But behind the niceties there is a serious business here, and if this group of players is to stand any chance of keeping Wanderers in League One, preventing another backward step, this is precisely the kind of opportunity they can ill-afford to miss.

Portsmouth have a squad which will surely improve in time, yet right now it looks vulnerable in front of a large, frustrated and expectant home crowd. Points were presented on a silver platter in the first half as numerous errors in possession gave Bolton impetus on which they simply failed to capitalise.

Will Buckley had the two best chances – the first laid on by Ali Crawford and the second by debutant Daryl Murphy. Thibaud Verlinden also had another bouncing shot blocked by keeper Craig MacGillivray.

Remi Matthews made one important save in front of the travelling support, reacting superbly to push away a deflected Ryan Williams free kick.

The swirling wind did little to improve the quality of football on offer yet Pompey were the ones struggling more to cope with the coastal conditions and that left Liam Bridcutt and Jason Lowe ample opportunity to break up play.

Bolton were by no means perfect in attack. Chances were spurned, set pieces wasted, crosses missed the mark. But the jeers from the home fans interspersed with chants of “(Kenny) Jackett out” would have been music to Keith Hill’s ears as his players walked back down the tunnel.

For whatever reason his players failed to gain any further motivation from their hosts’ weakness. The second half was a story of Bolton sitting deep, failing to hold on to possession and making quite basic errors.

Pompey’s fortunes changed with the arrival of Marcus Harness and Gareth Evans from the bench, the latter’s arrival cheered ironically as Ronan Curtis jogged dejectedly off the pitch.

By that stage Bolton had already been given a let-off. Josh Emmanuel – who had started brightly in possession – had a poor start to the second half and it was his inability to clear his lines that led to a panic in the penalty box, culminating on Jack Hobbs’ trip on John Marquis.

Brett Pittman’s penalty bounced off the outside of the post. It should have buoyed the men in yellow but nervy football continued and it was a matter of five minutes before the same player was wheeling away in relief as he climbed above Emmanuel’s rather feeble leap to connect with James Bolton’s deep cross for the game’s only goal.

Hill had already swapped the tiring Verlinden for Dennis Politic in the hope of snapping his side out of their funk. He then chose to protect the out-of-sorts Emmanuel, bringing Luke Murphy into midfield and switching Lowe to full-back.

Neither substitution had the desired effect. And the paucity of attacking options on the bench meant the remainder of the game was spent hoping for a change of fortune, rather than being able to engineer one.

The Wanderers support roared on the announcement of five minutes of added time, a last possible salvation, yet the players could muster no final twist.

“A win’s a win,” shrugged one veteran Pompey fan in front of the press box, screwing the lid back on her flask. The Pompey crowd have been through a lot with their club but there is something quite satisfying in the knowledge they have reverted back to fickle footballing type. Behind her, Bolton’s fans sang loudly as their defeated team walked sheepishly to the away end.

Patience is not a commodity often associated with football fans yet, at Bolton, there exists for now a willingness to let this team breathe and play their way into form. The important thing is that they do so, and preferably soon.

Hill is a man desperate to celebrate his first victory as a Bolton boss. He left 36-year-old Murphy on the pitch in the hope he could snatch a goal - but the service offered to the Irishman in the second half was poor, and in normal circumstances he would have been spared the last half hour.

It was etched plainly on the face of the Wanderers boss that a golden opportunity to pick up points had been blown.

“We were on top but we didn’t put the ball in the onion bag – we had opportunities to be brave, we do that and it would have created a really toxic environment,” reasoned Hill after the final whistle. “But we let them get away with it.

“There was no tactical genius. We allowed them to grow into the game.

“The players can’t hide from their responsibilities, and that’s producing performances.

“Once we improve on them and the fitness levels, the reality is that we’ll win football matches.”

It would be nice to think results could turn while the feelgood factor is still with us – and there were positive aspects to take from the game at Fratton Park.

Yoan Zouma, who had been picked to replace the injured Jake Wright at centre half, answered back any perceived criticism for his substitute cameo against Sunderland a week earlier with a very reasonable performance.

The young Frenchman had found himself the topic of umpteen conversations in the previous week after conceding a penalty and receiving some choice words in his manager’s post-match assessment.

And though there were moments of naivety, they were eclipsed by the crowd-pleasing strides he made out of defence. If Hill can find a way of adding a level of maturity to the 21-year-old’s game the raw ingredients are certainly there.

If Zouma has made a step towards gaining his manager’s trust in defence, one of the young attacking players must now follow his lead. A cup game at Rochdale at Tuesday night looks the ideal stage.

The likes of Ronan Darcy, Eddie Brown, De’Marilo Brown-Sterling and Callum King-Harmes may get another shot at the Crown Oil Arena, the incentive being that Wanderers’ next league game against Blackpool is televised.

The youngsters stepped up with no expectation earlier this season but are now being asked to take the next step and challenge legitimately for a first team place.

Hill is already showing signs of slight impatience at the lack of depth in his squad. He nor David Flitcroft have a relegation on their CV and they remain adamant it will not start with their hometown club.

Defensive improvement has been made, players are getting in shape, yet that elusive first victory remains frustratingly out of reach.