CLEAN sheets are a precious commodity in the Wanderers dressing room – as Ricardo Santos demonstrated in the dying moments of the game against Fleetwood.

The Bolton skipper had been part of a stern rear-guard display which had kept the visitors at bay for nearly half an hour with 10 men – protecting a 3-0 lead – until Josh Earl’s soft close-range finish in stoppage time.

Eagle-eyed Wanderers fans will have spotted how angry Santos was after conceding the first goal of the season, the pillar on which last season’s success was built.

Personnel has changed, with Nathan Baxter replacing James Trafford in goal, and Santos hopes he can build on a brief purple scoring patch that was triggered by a brace against his former club Peterborough in February.

But those shut-outs remain his priority and he feels the new-look back line is equally capable of producing some promotion-challenging form.

“I want as many clean sheets as possible, so I ended up kicking the post on Tuesday night,” he told The Bolton News. “My foot is fine, by the way.

“The boys at the top work their a*** off but everyone is dedicated to getting a clean sheet.

“I’d love to add some goals to what I do but clean sheets are what I thrive on so I want us to try and stay solid at the back.

“Last season we kept so many clean sheets – Traff was a giant but I think the defence was really solid too. Nath has come in and done really well, everyone is working hard to help him.”

The late Fleetwood goal aside, it has been an unblemished start for Santos and Wanderers, who top the early League One table on goal difference.

He is keen to impress, however, that the whole squad must keep driving standards as high as they can possibly go.

“It has been a great start but every day we are reminding ourselves that it is only a start, so it needs to be a great season,” he said.

“Personally, I think everyone is on the same wavelength and the passion in the group is high right now. There has always been that feeling but the winning mentality feels like it started from the first kick.

“You can see we have a complete team, even with the subs coming on. It’s good to see.

“In all winning teams you have to be ready for the call up. There is going to be disappointment if you are not playing but there is support there.”

Santos remembers well the last time that Bolton faced Wigan at home – and puts the game in October 2021 down as one of the lowest points in his time at the club.

“I would say so – it’s obviously a game that you want to come out on top and it wasn’t our day, that’s for sure. We want to make it right on Saturday.

“It is a whole new squad, it was different, it was weird that day. I think we had a lot of injuries but it feels completely different now, we are looking strong and we want to take that confidence into Saturday.

“It feels a long time ago but we can’t focus on the past. We have to focus on this weekend and hopefully another win.”