GETHIN Jones called for ruthlessness at Wanderers as they look to further their play-off ambitions and plunge Lancashire rivals Accrington Stanley further into the mire.

Bolton know five points from their remaining three games will guarantee a two-legged semi-final and the shot of a return to Wembley.

For John Coleman’s Stanley, the harsh reality of knowing defeat at the UniBol could leave them five points adrift of safety if also coupled with a win for Oxford United against Cheltenham Town.

Stanley have admirably steered clear of trouble in each of their four previous seasons at this level, their worst finish 17th in the Covid-affected 2019/20 campaign.

But Bolton’s stand-in skipper Jones knows there can be no room for sentiment or sympathy, given his own club’s ambition of Championship football.

“I have never been in Accrington’s situation at this stage of the season,” he told The Bolton News. “Maybe at Fleetwood four or five years ago we were towards the bottom with about 10 games to go and won five in a row, so it was done.

“I’ve never needed points to get out of the relegation spots with three games to go but I’d imagine it will be difficult.

“We still have three games to get a play-off spot, and if we didn’t get a win then there would be some disappointment but we would have to deal with that. We put pressure on ourselves to get the results.

“I think for Accrington it is a different type of pressure and if they don’t get the win then there could be jobs on the line, the management staff, the coaching staff, the players – relegation isn’t something you want on your CV.

“We have to concentrate on ourselves, stick to the gameplan and then hopefully get a win that puts us in a good position.”

The wastefulness in front of goal seen in Saturday’s narrow win against Shrewsbury is another area Jones would like to see improved.

“I think we all know that could and should have been more comfortable,” he said. “We had some good chances and you’d like to put that sort of game to bed earlier but we all need to take responsibility on that.”

Peterborough’s defeat at Ipswich at the weekend has crystalised Bolton’s target and in the best-case scenario they could go into the final game at Bristol Rovers with nothing other than the identity of their play-off opponents in doubt.

One of the most likely, Barnsley, take on Ipswich at Oakwell, while Plymouth Argyle can all-but guarantee an automatic spot with a home win against Bristol Rovers.

Plenty can still change – and Jones has warned Wanderers that they cannot be distracted by what is going on elsewhere.

“Obviously you do look at results elsewhere at the end of the game but we have all said we can’t look too much at the fixtures ahead for us or the teams around us, it is just a case of doing our job first,” he said. “And at the moment we have been so confident going into games, we all think we can keep this up against Accrington.

“The two times we have played against them this season have been difficult – the comeback in the league, and they also made it very difficult in the Papa Johns semi-final, even though they went down to 10 men.

“We know how they will play and obviously they are fighting for points themselves trying to get out of the relegation spots.

“It will be a tough game but we know what we are coming up against.”

Wanderers’ run of three wins and two draws post-Wembley has been built on some excellent defensive work made all the more impressive when you consider it was done without two of their first-choice players in Ricardo Santos and Eoin Toal.

MJ Williams – christened ‘Maldini’ in the Bolton camp – has shown his versatile side by dropping into the back three with minimal disruption.

“We’ve seen MJ do that long before he came in to play at the back the other week,” Jones added. “When we do 11-a-side games in training he sometimes slots into that centre-half role and he’s brilliant there.

“Every time it happened we’d say ‘here he goes, Maldini’s here again’ – and you could see on Saturday him getting more and more confident.

“I know he has played there a little bit for Rochdale and even though the way they play is different to the way we do, I think he is thriving at the moment.”