UP until very recently, you would probably have got short odds on Jake Wright remaining a Bolton Wanderers player for the rest of this season.

The Sheffield United defender had produced reasonable form, recovering from a hamstring injury which kept him out for the whole of October, and had been on the losing side just twice in the league since his return.

Wright featured in 11 games in total, playing 977 minutes – a total bettered by only three of Keith Hill’s signings on the final day of the summer transfer window, Thibaud Verlinden (1,034), Daryl Murphy (1,138) and Adam Chicksen (1,248).

However, it may have been the 33-year-old’s final appearance in a Bolton shirt which tipped the scales against him. The 4-3 defeat against Burton was a difficult one to take, as it felt so self-inflicted, and closer analysis of Bolton’s defending on the day did not reflect well on the back four.

Keith Hill bemoaned “huge errors” after the final whistle and it seems more than coincidental that less than a week later both Wright and his centre-half partner on the day, Josh Earl, were packed up to return to their parent clubs.

Decisive? Certainly. Ruthless, even. But there are time factors at play here.

As well as both the starting centre-halves on the previous team-sheet, Hill loses Luke Murphy to suspension and winger Thibaud Verlinden for the trip to Rochdale this Saturday, where a positive result now looks more important than ever.

It is perhaps pertinent that the club has not officially waved goodbye to the fourth of their loan quartet, Liam Bridcutt, although Hill has expressed concern that the Nottingham Forest man could have options to play elsewhere in the second half of the season.

A couple of defensive replacements have already been touted. Burnley’s Irish youngster Jimmy Dunne had been given glowing references in a loan spell at Fleetwood until falling out with manager Joey Barton.

And last Friday’s talking point was unquestionably the potential return of David Wheater – the 32-year-old former club captain who ended eight-and-a-half years with Bolton to sign at Oldham in the summer.

The return to fitness of Harry Brockbank and Liam Edwards may also have given Hill more confidence he could chop two fairly established loan defenders from his squad and invest elsewhere in his squad.

Both players appear old heads on young shoulders, and though Brockbank has played much of his football for Wanderers at right-back, his youth career was almost exclusively in the middle of defence.

Edwards shone for the so-called Junior Whites at the start of this troubled season and the fact he was granted a contract extension to 2022 – security that no other player in the squad current has – shows how highly he is rated within the camp.

The defensive rejig may also be a reflection on the fact Wanderers have conceded 19 times in eight league and cup games.

A little stability had been regained over Christmas, the defeat at high-flying Peterborough hardly comprehensive without Wright in the side, the draw at Sunderland impressively resolute and the second-half display to hold on to a point against Shrewsbury fairly encouraging.

The sloppy 3-2 victory against Southend and the 4-3 reverse against Burton showed the other side of Wanderers, however, and nudged up to levels of vulnerability that Hill will not want to see repeated.

Owing largely to several heavy defeats at the start of the season, Wanderers have conceded a divisional high 19.4 shots per game. After five matches that number had been as high as 26.6.

By comparison, Oxford United are currently the most miserly defence in League One, conceding just 9.7 shots per game.

The trend has visibly lowered since Hill and David Flitcroft’s arrival and dropped to just 13 at Peterborough – which considering their free-scoring attack was a triumph for players and manager alike.

But the average has crept back up against since London Road where Burton (18), Sunderland (20), Shrewsbury (25) and Southend (17) saw Wanderers once again dealing with some heavy traffic – at least some of which was caused by red cards issued to Jason Lowe and Luke Murphy.

Hill will hope another defensive shake-up can have a positive effect, particularly if it is accompanied by the return of Bridcutt on loan.