ALEX Baptiste hopes he can play a part in helping team-mate Ricardo Santos play higher up the Football League.

Despite an unsteady start in a Bolton shirt, former Peterborough United man Santos has hit a good spell of form since being moved into the middle of Ian Evatt’s back three alongside another of the squad’s most dependable characters, Ryan Delaney.

Veteran Baptiste believes the 25-year-old has all the necessary tools to progress further up the pyramid – and preferably with Wanderers.

“Rico has been unbelievable the last four games and so has Ryan (Delaney). I am the old man of the group and I’m trying to hang on to those two,” he said.

“Rico has got all the attributes but needs just that bit of experience. He has been a revelation and you could make an argument for him being man of the match for the last four weeks.

“Importantly, he has got the attributes to take him to the next level. Obviously, that is what we want as a team, to get there, and for me it’s great to have him mopping everything up because he’s rapid.”

Wanderers were praised for their organised defending against Salford, some of which was put down to an increase in communication brought by replacement keeper Matt Gilks.

Baptiste was not surprised his former Blackpool team-mate had such a profound impact.

“I know Gillo from a long time ago and that is what he brings to the team. He was excellent tonight and won man of the match, rightly so,” he said.

“He brings that energy and experience to the training ground and he’s great for the keepers to learn from, for everyone to learn from, because he talks the game 90 minutes. He tells you things before they actually happen.

“In this day and age people don’t talk to each other, they are always on their phones, but he’s a communicator.”

At 34, Baptiste is four years Gilks’s junior – but nevertheless he is a rare thirtysomething in a relatively youthful Bolton squad.

Evatt brought him to the club in the summer to add a touch of experience to the defensive ranks and though he too endured a few wobbles as he played in a back three for only the second time in his career, Baptiste feels he still has an important job to do.

“As an elder statesman in the group, like Gillo, we have to try and help these lads,” he said.

“In golfing terms I’m probably on the 17th or 18th hole in my career. I want to pass something down to the younger defenders.

“As Gillo showed, half the game is talking. People don’t do that enough these days. As a defender or a goalkeeper you need to get players into position, the point is to make it that they can’t score, so that’s half the battle. I see it as my job to pass that on to the younger defender because it makes life so much easier.”

Friday night’s win against Salford was widely regarded as Bolton’s best performance of the season so far but Baptiste believes the team is still some way off realising its top potential as it gets to grips with a new playing style.

“Hopefully that’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “It was a great team performance tonight and they had a lot of possession second half but they didn’t really create a lot of chances. The 14 players, including the three which came on, it was a good, workmanlike 2-0.

“The improvement has been coming. It has been tough sledding the first two months and we have been getting there. It’s a new group and it has been tough.

“We have been putting the work in on the training ground and sticking together. That was a squad win and hopefully that kicks us on now and gets us towards where we want to be, the top end of the table.”