EOIN Toal has returned to full training this morning and could be available for Wanderers before the end of the season.

The Northern Ireland defender has been out of action since Sam Cosgrove’s horrific challenge in the Papa Johns Trophy final win against Plymouth Argyle at Wembley left him with a damaged ankle.

Ricardo Santos, who has also been out of action for a similar length of time with a thigh problem, is expected to return to full training by the start of next week.

Wanderers have no new injuries ahead of Tuesday night’s home game against Accrington, where victory would give them a five-point cushion on seventh-placed Peterborough United with two games to play.

Ian Evatt confirmed the good news at Lostock but said his defence had been in such good form of late the returning pair would have a battle to get back into the side.

“Eoin will train today, which is great news and Rico isn’t far away either,” he said. “Obviously Kieran (Lee) is back with us as well, so we are getting stronger but we have to maintain those performance levels.

“The more time we can give them both, the better they will be long-term, and the way the lads have stepped up we have managed to buy some time.

“There are no guarantees for anyone. If the players continue to play at the standard I believe they are at the moment then it is going to be a challenge to get back into the team and who would have thought we would have said that?

“That is what we want as a football club. We want healthy competition and we have pretty much got that all over the pitch.”

Wanderers have conceded 32 goals this season and registered 21 clean sheets in the league, which is a big step up on last season when they leaked 57 goals in 46 games and kept out the opposition just 11 times.

That the trend has continued without two of their key centre-halves, Santos and Toal, and with MJ Williams playing as an auxiliary defender is doubly pleasing for the Bolton boss.

“There are different ways to defend and we do that as an absolute team,” he said. “The way the front lads work to protect the midfield players and the way the midfield players work to protect the back line is really strong,” he said.

“And having the ball means the opposition can’t score, which has kind of been our philosophy. How to we manage transitions? Limit their counter-opportunities? It is by being tight in possession.

“For all that we didn’t create on Saturday, we limited them to very little possession and we were able to break their spirit.

“I have huge amount of respect for Steve Cotterill and anyone who tried to sign me a couple of times is obviously a knowledgeable person, but we had a discussion about when we were turning down crosses and shooting opportunities – sometimes from too far away – the crowd were getting frustrated but actually the players are thinking ‘I have to get up to the ball again’ which is burning energy. Eventually, when they stop getting up to the ball like they did for Sheehan’s goal, you can score. It isn’t rocket science.”