THE ‘one’ shouldn’t matter as much as the ‘five’ – hell, cup football is meant to be all about the result, right? Well, not at Bolton Wanderers, especially these days.

We were approaching 12 hours of solid football since Ian Evatt’s side last conceded a goal and had they held out for just 45 minutes longer they would have claimed a club record for their very own.

Should that really matter in the grand scheme? Would the average Bolton fan been able to tell you a few months ago that a team back in 1900 had set the benchmark? Probably not.

But this is the sort of minutiae Evatt and his players are having to involve themselves with as they attempt to find new challenges and push this fine season into one that will be talked about for years to come.

There had been a few minutes of wayward passing and daft decision-making in the build up to George Thomson’s goal on the stroke of half time and though it was an error from Gethin Jones – a player otherwise excellent on the day – the whole team seemed to take it personally when the Harrogate midfielder stroked the ball into the bottom corner past Nathan Baxter.

Certainly, that few minutes of sloppiness was on the manager’s mind as he discussed the game later that evening with his team’s name safely in the third round draw. Some may say it dwelled on the negative, some might even say Evatt has been hanging around in Bolton so long he is starting to absorb the local flair for pragmatism. It is very clear, however, that any drop in standards will be called out as Wanderers attempt to reach an elite level.

There was plenty to admire elsewhere in the performance, if that is you could stop your teeth from chattering on a bitterly cold afternoon at the base of Winter Hill.

Aptly, an Icelander grabbed the headlines and the match-ball. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson seems to love the FA Cup and his only previous hat-trick had been in the same competition for Reading back in 2018.

Back then he had got back into manager Jaap Stam’s good books with three goals against Stevenage after being late for a previous match. He also achieved the feat wearing two different kits, after the referee ordered a change of colours at half time.

This was much more straightforward. Full of classy touches, turns and twists, Bodvarsson looked a different class to the defenders chasing him unsuccessfully. He opened his account with Bolton’s 100th goal of the calendar year, a well-worked team move ending with a neat exchange between Jones and Will Forrester, and a calm stroke of the right foot to send the ball past Jonathan Mitchell.

The yang to Bodvarsson’s yin was Dan Nlundulu, who might have lacked some of the more graceful touches but played with a raw power and bullishness that bodes very well indeed.

You sensed the young striker had turned a corner when he scored the seventh against Exeter, asking for some acceptance from a fanbase who have been somewhat slow to warm to him. This was the sort of bullying usually reserved for Ricardo Santos at the other end of the pitch, and if he can bring it to the table more often, there is no doubt he can go places in a Bolton shirt.

His work to present the second goal on a platter for Bodvarsson was simply delightful. Jack Iredale hooked a ball down the touchline, and despite looking second favourite to reach it Nlundulu hunted down defender Warren Burrell, brushed him off and set route for goal, slowing just enough to roll a square pass for his strike partner to sweep into the net.

There was more to come but not before Bodvarsson had completed his hat-trick, nudging the ball over the line from point blank range after Carlos Mendes Gomes’s shot had bounced awkwardly off a defender to leave the keeper nowhere.

Harrogate’s goal spoiled the clean sheet narrative but after the break, Bolton response was impressive. Aaron Morley looked in good touch and his jinking run into the penalty box provided Nlundulu with his first goal, a sharp turn to brush off two defenders and pass a left-footed shot into the net.

Moments later he produced an even better finish, deftly nicking Kyle Dempsey’s cross at the near post to leave the goalkeeper standing.

Five up and with the likes of Dion Charles, Josh Sheehan, Zac Ashworth, Paris Maghoma and Victor Adeboyejo about to join the party, you felt a little sorry for Harrogate, who looked a shadow of the team that had drawn with Wrexham a few days earlier.

Had Bolton kept their focus there were surely more goals to claim. A couple of half-chances did fall in the final 25 minutes but as the cold really seeped into the bones of the 7,000 huddled together in the East Stand it became less enjoyable to watch.

Complaining that the goals dried up at 5-1 feels like a rather entitled statement to make but, again, these are also the high standards to which Wanderers are holding themselves accountable these days. Against a Pompey, a Peterborough or a Derby County what they do in those last remaining minutes could matter a lot more than it did on Saturday.

You sense Tuesday night’s game in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy against Port Vale will be treated as a dress rehearsal for the following week’s game at Fratton Park. More will be demanded.

Evatt knows by now that Bolton’s supporters can be a hard bunch to please, and his players probably think exactly the same about their manager, who must surely be the first person to describe a 5-1 win as “okay but nothing more than that!”

We might all be a bunch of footballing malcontents but if this is what it takes to drive Bolton back into the Championship again, so be it.