WANDERERS will pursue striker target Aaron Collins before Thursday’s transfer deadline – but have warned Bristol Rovers that they will not be held to ransom.

It is understood that the club has had one bid of £600,000 turned down and that an improved offer is expected to be made in the next few days.

Ian Evatt rates the 26-year-old Welshman, who asked not to be included in the Rovers squad to face Oxford United on Saturday. But Bolton have set a very firm valuation and are willing to walk away from the deal if negotiations do not pick up.

Former Rovers boss Joey Barton put a fanciful £5million price tag on Collins after he had scored 34 goals over two season to help the club get promotion from League Two.

But new manager Matt Taylor does not appear to have the same faith and has started Collins in just two of the last six games in league and cup.

The player has scored just five times this season – his form being called into question in spells - but has also provided nine assists.

Wrexham and Charlton Athletic have also been credited with an interest in signing him during the January transfer window – and though Bolton’s initial target had been to loan Blackburn Rovers’ Niall Ennis, the prospect of signing Collins outright could sway their thoughts.

The Newport-born forward earned a move to Wolves early in his career but played much of his football on loan with the likes of Colchester United, Tranmere Rovers and Notts County.

His fortunes were revived at Forest Green – and it was in the 2020/21 campaign that the striker first came to Bolton’s attention.

Rovers won the race for his signature in the summer of 2021, after which he went from strength to strength, winning League One’s player of the season after providing 16 goals and 12 assists last season.

Many expected him to move elsewhere last summer but a change of ownership at the club, coupled with Barton’s departure in October, left him unwilling to commit to a longer contract. He has 18 months remaining on his current deal but Rovers feel they can get the highest possible price if they sell now, and prevent him moving into the final year.

Sources in Bristol say Bolton’s opening offer was turned down last week, at a time when Evatt was discussing his willingness to walk away from negotiations if he felt the club was not getting value for money.

Taylor remains confident he is in a strong position.

"It’s in the club’s hands,” he told Bristol Live. “We are in charge of that situation so until the valuation is met then he’ll still be our player. In terms of him being unavailable for us today, that was his decision. We understand it to a certain extent, as much as we don’t like it, but then there will need to be a quick solution in the next few days because the window closes late Thursday.

"We’ll see how that pans out but that’s certainly no one else’s situation other than ours.”

Asked if Collins had played his final game for the club, he added: "I honestly don’t know. That’s going to be down to the hierarchies of the two clubs. He’s got 18 months left on his contract so we’re in a strong position. There’s obviously a market there for him so those discussions will continue and we’ll see where it takes us.”

Ennis remains a possibility – although Blackburn boss Jon Dahl Tomasson has said he will not release the striker for loan until he has found a replacement.

Rovers are also keen to include a clause which guarantees that Wanderers convert the deal into a permanent one in the summer - rumoured to be worth £500,000.