WANDERERS clawed back more ground on the play-off spots as Ian Evatt’s second-half substitutes came good against Lincoln City.

George Johnston headed his side ahead shortly after half time but when a Gethin Jones error led to Cohen Bramall’s equaliser, it was down to replacements Kieran Sadlier and Amadou Bakayoko to secure a sixth straight home win with two goals inside the last 14 minutes.

Bolton were never at their fluent best but the depth of attacking options on the bench these days means Evatt always has another route.

He changed shape in the second half to help get his team ahead, and though nobody could have forecast the way in which Lincoln would drag themselves level, it was the arrival of Sadlier, Bakayoko and Kyle Dempsey – who created the third goal – which pegged down the points in the final stages.

Wanderers had to do without club skipper Ricardo Santos, who missed the game to be with his partner for the birth of their child.

Will Aimson filled the space in the middle of the back three and defended well, but in possession Bolton lacked something playing out from the back which affected their usual rhythm.

Early on, Lincoln’s own nervousness on the ball had played into Bolton’s hands.

The high pressing of Dion Charles, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Co put the visitors off their own passing game and led to a couple of decent chances in the opening 15 minutes.

Marlon Fossey pulled a ball back for Dapo Afolayan, whose touch was unusually heavy, and Declan John drove a cross in from the left which dropped agonisingly in front of Charles at full stretch.

Gradually, Lincoln built their confidence. Jones gave them a leg-up with a poor back-pass, which allowed John Marquis to race in on goal. James Trafford blocked the shot and then watched gratefully as Chris Maguire wasted the follow-up.

Bolton began to dwell on the ball, triggering a murmur of displeasure we have not heard at the UniBol in some time.

Even when the ball was worked towards the front two, it had trouble staying there. Bodvarsson was having an especially tough time but – to give him credit – never allowed his work-rate to drop as a result.

Lincoln’s plan had been to sit deep and hit on the break, and the gaps they were able to exploit in midfield would also have been a concern to Evatt as he watched from the edge of the technical area.

Ex West-Ham man Anthony Scully caused problems for Jones and Fossey, drifting into some clever areas and forcing Bolton to defend their own penalty box stoutly.

Maguire wasted a good chance to play in his strike partner Marquis as Lincoln hit on another break, and though Bolton looked to have recovered some confidence as they went in at the break – both John and George Johnston working well down the left to earn a succession of corners – Evatt won’t have been happy, and it was no surprise to see a change in shape after the break.

Kieran Sadlier replaced Declan John, with Bolton moving to a 4-1-3-2, and the improvement was instant.

Griffiths made a fine full-length save from Charles, who briefly looked like he had spurned a good opportunity to play in Sadlier or Bodvarsson. And within a minute, home fans were celebrating a first goal.

Attacking set pieces had been virtually fruitless before the turn of the year but suddenly the work of first team coach Sam Hird is earning some reward.

Morley’s corner was driven hard and though Jones could not get a telling touch, Johnston threw himself in to head home at the far post.

Bolton smelled blood. Morley and Bodvarsson had shots blocked, and the Icelander – whose work had improved significantly – hammered another angled shot just wide of the post.

Evatt brought on Bakayoko with half an hour to go but just as his side looked to be ripe for a second goal they were pegged back.

Cohen Bramall made his way into the penalty box and somehow wriggled past Jones, who should have cleared the ball high into the stands. His shot, which also appeared to take a nick off Aimson, nestled into the back of the net to leave keeper Trafford stunned.

Now Wanderers 2.0 were due a serious examination. What would their response be this time?

The answer arrived in under nine minutes. Once again, it appeared like Bolton had played one pass too many on the edge of the box – but suddenly the right one arrived. Morley quickened the pace to find Sadlier and he drilled his first goal for the club into the bottom corner.

The game remained open, and worryingly so. As attacks swung back and forth, there was a danger that Bolton could allow their hard work to be undone for a second time.

But then Kyle Dempsey – another second-half replacement – beat his man on the left and pulled a cross back for Bakayoko to pass home from close range. Game over.

Wanderers knew they would have to work hard to beat a proficient Lincoln side and will surely have to up their possession game again at MK Dons on Saturday. But the flame of hope flickers bright at the UniBol. You just never know.