IAN Evatt praised his battle-weary Wanderers for finding a way to win at Oxford United.

Placed under heavy pressure in the second half with a makeshift defensive line, the Whites held firm to register their 20th league clean sheet of the campaign.

Dion Charles scored the crucial goal just seven minutes in, which was enough for three points which lifts Evatt’s side into fifth place.

“It is an unbelievable result, really, and to keep a clean sheet is vital,” beamed the Bolton boss. “It wasn’t us, it wasn’t our fluid selves, but as I said to you in the week, when you have got four centre-halves injured we have to find a different way to win.

“We started the game fast, got ourselves ahead, second half was just far too sacrificial from my overall liking but it was the way we could stay in the game.

“We got bodies at the back to help us defend but for all the ball they had, all the territory they had, they didn’t create much that was clear cut.

“I am delighted with MJ to go and play centre-back for the first time in a few years with only one or two days of practice, he was excellent. It is on to the next one for us, now.”

While the performance was hardly as free-flowing as Evatt would have liked, the fact Ricardo Santos, Jack Iredale, Eoin Toal and Luke Mbete were all unavailable from the defence made the result feel twice as deserved.

“You have to do that at this stage of the season,” Evatt said. “We know we are loads better than that.

“I thought the first 20 minutes we were very good, aside from that it was just about riding it out. It is a big result at this stage of the season.”

Oxford fans made their feelings known to referee Seb Stocksbridge after he punished James Trafford with a yellow card, rather than a red, following a foul on the edge of the penalty box late in the first half.

Kyle Joseph had ran on to a long ball over the top and got goal-side on MJ Williams, only to be felled by the onrushing Bolton keeper.

“I was concerned,” Evatt admitted. “I don’t know, I haven’t watched it back. But live I thought the touch was going away from goal and MJ was in the vicinity.

“But I have seen them go either way and fortunately for us, it went our way today.”

Mbete is out of action for four to six weeks with a knee injury and Kieran Lee has also joined the line to the treatment room and will not be available for the game at Burton on Tuesday night.

Asked if there was any encouraging news on the injury front, Evatt added: “There is no more encouragement, I have really fallen out with the physio Matt Barrass and told the players to stay out of his way,” he smiled.

“We are where we are. We can only do our level best. We just need to park this and refocus for Tuesday.”