LATE goals stick in the mind and often make heroes of those who scored them, but Wanderers are doing things differently this season.

Over Ian Evatt’s four campaigns as manager there have been some famous late winners and fightbacks – see Arthur Gnahoua at Mansfield, Amadou Bakayoko at Morecambe, Dapo Afolayan against Peterborough United, and many more.

And last Tuesday Bolton treated their away supporters to a typically dramatic finale, as goals from Eoin Toal and Aaron Morley stopped Wycombe’s own comeback in its tracks and earned a first-ever win at Adams Park.

Whereas Evatt and his side used to take great pride over their ability to score late in games, often by virtue of wearing down opponents with their possession game, there has been a recent shift which has placed them in the ascendancy, more often than not.

No team in League One has spent more time leading games than Bolton, and only Peterborough United have spent less time trailing.

We may still only be a third of the way through but it appears that the flow of Saturday’s win at Charlton – which saw the Whites race into a two-goal lead in the first 25 minutes then hold steady until the final whistle – may now be the new order of things.

Evatt had suggested as much at the end of last week, when the issue of second-half ‘drop-offs’ were discussed with him.

“I have had a look at it, and the only explanation I can give – and I think it is a reasonable one – is that we are ahead a lot more this season,” he told The Bolton News.

“We are winning more games in the first half, whereas in the past we have been happy to stay in the game or score late.

“That gives you a different feeling, maybe a false one, because it means you are either level or behind in the first place. But in the majority of games we have played this season we have been ahead.

“I used to say all the time ‘I wish we’d score the first goal, look at our record when we score the first goal’ but now we’re scoring it, we’re wondering why we never score again.

“Everyone wants perfection, but it just doesn’t exist, in my opinion, if you head for perfection, you are on the right path, and we’re on the right path from what I have seen.”

The Bolton News: Wanderers have spent more time ahead than anyone else in League One over their first 14 gamesWanderers have spent more time ahead than anyone else in League One over their first 14 games (Image: NQNW)

He was proved right against Charlton, where once again his side established a firm lead early on, which was maintained to the final whistle.

The late comeback at Wycombe aside, most of Wanderers’ good work has been done in the first half this season. Indeed, only Oxford United have a better record in the opening 45 minutes.

If only the first-half results were considered, Bolton would have 29 points – six more than runaway leaders Portsmouth, having played one game less.

But on the flip side, if only the second-half was considered, Barnsley would be top of the list (30 points), Pompey second (30) and Peterborough third on 24. Bolton would be way down in 19th – their work after half time amounting to 15 points so far.

If you consider goals scored, Bolton have registered 19 in the first half, eight in the second. They have conceded seven in the first half, and 11 in the second.

That need not be a disadvantage, of course, and the main table makes for positive viewing as they go into FA Cup weekend on the crest of a three-game winning streak.

But the long spells without progression in the second half may explain some of the grumbles which have emanated from the fans in recent weeks, especially after games either side of the international break against newly promoted Carlisle United and Northampton Town.

Even at Charlton – a game where few could complain about the overall standard of performance – Wanderers had chances after half time to quell any sort of response from the home side but failed to take them.

The Bolton News: Wanderers' four seasons under Ian Evatt - and the time spent ahead, level or behind in gamesWanderers' four seasons under Ian Evatt - and the time spent ahead, level or behind in games (Image: NQNW)

Compared to Evatt’s previous seasons, the current percentage of time Wanderers have spent in the lead (52.8) far exceeds that of the last three – almost tripling that after promotion to League One in 2021/22. Likewise, the 9.8 per cent spent behind is made up primarily of the forgettable afternoon at home to Wigan Athletic.

A new way to watch Wanderers, perhaps? Or just a way to prolong the nerves?

Either way, Evatt’s pursuit of perfection is getting the results which have put his side firmly back in the automatic promotion picture.