KEITH Hill certainly wasn’t downbeat after watching Wanderers slip to a narrow defeat against Portsmouth.

Christian Burgess pounced in the first half to score the only goal of the game and boost Pompey’s promotion chances.

Bolton – who were missing top-scorer Daryl Murphy, who had been given compassionate leave - battled back in the second half and came close to drawing level.

Dennis Politic had a shot well-saved by Alex Bass and both Joe Dodoo and Chris O’Grady had gilt-edged opportunities created by Ronan Darcy.

“It was a good performance, there was plenty of courage and it gives me plenty of optimism,” Hill said after the final whistle. “The lads recovered (from Lincoln) well and showed bravery to play in front of their home supporters against one of the best teams in the league.

“They are on an upward curve, Portsmouth. They are on a rebuild. And I think we have got to use them as an example.

“When you look at the players they have out there on the pitch, the squad they have got, and I think it shows what you can do when you are in a similar position to the one we are in.

“When they go out and spend a lot of money on John Marquis, Ellis Harrison, Marcus Harness, it shows you there is life after administration.”

Wanderers’ run of defensive injuries continued as Liam Edwards failed to appear for the second half.

Jason Lowe dropped back as an emergency centre-back after the interval but Hill was impressed by how the players coped.

“Liam Edwards was unfortunate,” he said. “He blocked a shot and had to come off at half time.

“I think we dealt with it quite well. When you consider the numbers we have got to choose from, the opposition we’re playing against, it gives me a lot of encouragement.

“The players have got to grow and learn. They can’t stress out. If they make mistakes then I have to guide them so that they make fewer and then we’ll give ourselves an opportunity to stay in the game. I think we did that today, and not only that but I think in the second half we deserved something.”

Hill accepted there had been some nerves in the first half, which contributed to a bitty Wanderers performance, but he ended the day feeling some progress had been made after a difficult 5-1 defeat at Lincoln on Tuesday night.

“The opposition are good, there’s a nervousness among the players. We all know it’s a game but it’s an important one,” he said.

“We’re all trying to perform under a little bit of stress on results, the situation and position we are in.

“New players are trying to adjust, we’ve had different tactics and lost Daryl Murphy as well.

“So there’s a little bit of fear, I suppose, but in the first half we were more than in the game without looking too effective going forward. But the game lasts 90 minutes and we were quite compact.

“We gave away too many silly free kicks, we know they are good at that, and potentially better than us because of the size and experience of the players.

“We succumbed to one, which was disappointing, but we moved on. I think second half, from a possession point of view, what I was looking for and what we were planning for was more of the ball and we got it. We stabilised, made the pitch wider and their offensive players became deeper.

“I think sometimes the players have to remind themselves they are good players. They make mistakes, they have to challenge themselves to improve physically, technically and tactically when we are training. We’re not actually training, we’re learning for the next game.”