KEITH Hill admits he took a calculated gamble playing Thibaud Verlinden and Jake Wright in Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Fleetwood.

The Wanderers boss named two surprise inclusions on his team-sheet at the UniBol, having decided on Friday that the players were fit enough to face Joey Barton’s high-flyers.

Winger Verlinden had missed the last two games with a groin injury and Wright had been out of action since September – a spell of six games – with a hamstring strain.

Hill revealed that his medical team had expressed concerns over whether the pair were ready for League One action – but both came through the match unscathed as Wanderers chalked up a third successive victory.

“We had massive concerns,” Hill told The Bolton News. “Matty Barrass was almost leading me into not playing them.

“It was a difficult one for him – he’s doing a great job with his team – but once they step on my training pitch they make themselves available. I have to purposely, and with a smile rather than a grimace, ignore Matty. I had to play those two.

“The wins, the games are important, the performances are important. But it was a massive risk, especially playing Jake Wright.”

Hill has had to get his players up to speed in double-quick time on the job, with many having seen their pre-season interrupted. And the progress was there for all to see as Wanderers battened down the hatches in the second half. 

The manager was equally pleased with the attitude shown under pressure against Fleetwood – and he is keen to see more as the club prepare for the visit of Plymouth in the FA Cup this weekend.

“The players we recruit we expect to have a certain character and we expect them to build it,” he said. “There is a unity here. We push players to the maximum so that when they get to matchday they are prepared for everything.

“We will lose football matches doing the same but there is plenty of courage in that changing room and on the training ground.”