WANDERERS have found themselves on both extremes of the football spectrum down the years but now appear to have hit a sweet spot.

At the turn of the millennium the successful team built by Sam Allardyce were billed as the rough and ready rogues, giving a bloody nose to the Premier League millionaires and getting very little credit for the standard of the football they played.

Fast forward a couple of decades and Ian Evatt’s artisans have amassed plaudits aplenty for their expansive style and an improving pressing game, and yet they rarely get credit for rolling up their sleeves.

Perhaps it is a lesson about pigeon-holing but more likely proof that the most carefully crafted sides can do a bit of both. And recent evidence suggests that this Bolton team is more than capable of achieving something special.

Peterborough know the League One blueprint. In Jonson Clarke-Harris they have the sort of brutish, physical forward who will usually do well in this division, backed up by the intricate skills of Kwame Poku and a firm grasp of the dark defensive arts.

They are exactly the type of opponent against whom last season’s Wanderers, fresh from League Two, would have suffered.

This year’s vintage seems wiser, gnarlier, ready to play out from the back in a modern style but also to leave some bruises if the situation dictates.

At the heart of it a few largely unsung midfielders. MJ Williams, who has been as close to an ‘enforcer’ as Bolton have had in this last couple of years, but miles away from the stereotypical skin-headed, thick-thighed sitter who might have played the role in days gone by.

Kyle Dempsey’s rugby league roots showed through as he snapped bravely into tackles, fully rewarding Evatt for the decision to put him into battle ahead of the more intricate Kieran Lee.

And lastly, George Thomason, whose rapid evolution from the awkward youngster with the unkempt hair into a genuine all-rounder has been nothing short of dazzling.

The 21-year-old has not exactly come from nowhere – in fact he has been at Bolton longer than any of his team-mates. But he has seemingly matured beyond any expectation since the summer, and has been Bolton’s outstanding player for the last three games, excluding himself from the manager’s squad rotation plans.

That midfield trio kept Wanderers on top, having spent the opening half an hour figuring out the visitors’ high pressing strategy.

Very early on it seemed like the pace of young striker Ricky-Jade Jones would cause his namesake Gethin some problems. Any such issues were quickly snuffed out, however, and the main concern was then whether the visitors’ persistent gamesmanship would draw Wanderers into a reaction.

Referee Carl Brook struggled to keep control of the game as frustrations started to materialise on both sides. George Johnston might have got a lucky break when he got involved in a penalty area shoving contest whilst already on a yellow card but that was nothing compared to the Royal Rumble happening on half way.

Ex-Posh defender Ricardo Santos had already predicted an eventful day against powerhouse striker Jonson Clarke-Harris and watching the two behemoths bounce off each other was a fascinating sight, rarely seen these days.

Both slugged each other to standstill. And credit to Santos, he was slipped just once, Jeando Fuchs sliding a pass through to the big striker and James Trafford coming to the rescue with an excellent clearance 10 yards outside his own area.

Conor Bradley should have opened the scoring as he raced on to Dion Charles’s clever reverse ball. The wing-back blazed his shot over in similar style to the game against Sheffield Wednesday, yet this time there was no ‘funny five minutes’ to follow.

Wanderers nearly snatched a goal on half time as Jack Iredale fed the ball into the penalty box and Jones managed to get enough power on his header to beat Lucas Bergstrom but not his left-hand post.

Now in control of the game, Bolton needed to put away one of the many chances they were creating.

Iredale and Charles failed to get shots away close on goal and Bergstrom made a fine save at close quarters from Dempsey.

Evatt brought on a flurry of substitutes, the one-way flow of football hardly being interrupted, but as the clock in the corner ticked down this looked increasingly like being a stoic point, and reflection on those missed opportunities.

Dapo Afolayan was having none of it, though. Trafford’s long punt was headed back into No Man’s Land and, as had been the case for most of the day, a Bolton player was first to the ball.

Afolayan surged forward a few steps, drew back his right foot and drove a low shot cannoned off Ronnie Edwards’ chest and changed direction a good 30 degrees past prone keeper Bergstrom, and into the net.

He who dares, wins. And Bolton deserved to be the ones who collected the points having pushed their case for the last hour of the game.

Ian Evatt’s name reverberated around the UniBol. He had made the attacking changes and got his reward.

To borrow a phrase from the Bolton boss, his side “stood up to the bully” in a fashion they had rarely done before.

They sit fifth in the table after nine games, still with plenty of scope for progression, especially in their ruthlessness in front of goal.

In this writer’s view, this is the best a Bolton side has looked since the club dropped out of the Championship four years ago. Whether that is enough to stake a claim to stay in the top six, only time will tell.

But whereas Evatt’s side has always been able to turn on the tap and play football which had supporters on their edge of their seat in patches, it is even more encouraging to see them start to master the other side of the game.

It isn’t as easy on the eye… But my word, you need it in League One.