FIVE points separated Bolton Wanderers from the automatic promotion spots on the final day of the regular season.

Failure felt self-inflicted even before the play-offs began. And even had Ian Evatt’s team finished the job at Wembley on Saturday there had been enough cautionary notes in the last four or five months to suggest the team still needed to improve in some key areas to continue its progression.

After 44 games, Evatt revealed that the club’s in-house data analysis had found that six points had been ‘gained’ but 19 ‘lost’ according to XG, a measure of the quality of goalscoring chances his players had created.

Wanderers still managed to score a record 121 goals in all competitions, outscoring all but Peterborough in the division. Some defensive concessions were made, however, as a reaction to the previous season’s play-off miss, and 51 goals conceded felt high, especially when compared to the likes of Lincoln, Blackpool and Stevenage, who did not even make the top six.

Consistency was an issue, particularly away from home. And while Evatt and his side can point to plenty of goal-filled occasions where the attacking football flowed in the sunshine, the team’s propensity to throw in an unpredictable performance haunted them all the way to Wembley.

According to, defeat against Oxford was the only time in 61 games this season where Bolton have failed to put a shot on target.

But that result was only the last link in the chain. Leaving aside Saturday’s 99 tortuous minutes we have turned the spotlight on 10 other occasions which led to Wanderers downfall.

10. Wigan Athletic (H) 0-4.

Wanderers’ 100 per cent record disappeared in the most savage way imaginable, as Stephen Humphrys and Charlie Wyke scored two goals apiece to give the Latics local bragging rights once more.

Behind the eye-watering scoreline, however, the match stats showed that Bolton had 20 attempts at goal, something they only managed on six other occasions this season.

Wigan scored with 80 per cent of the shots they took on the day, something only Portsmouth managed to better against the Whites.

9. Carlisle United (H) 1-3.

Once again, Wanderers went into October’s home game against Carlisle in good touch, whacking eight past Manchester United’s kids and beating Stevenage and Port Vale either side.

After taking the lead the performance level dropped badly before half time. The Cumbrians cantered to victory and even had the luxury of missing a penalty.

“We looked devoid of energy, devoid of ideas,” Evatt said after the final whistle.

8. Reading (A) 1-2.

The Royals were in disarray, docked three points by the EFL and with fans’ protests against owner Dai Yongge dominating the agenda. Wanderers had ample opportunities to take advantage.

Dion Charles put them ahead but Bolton then missed a clutch of critical chances. Once Charlie Savage levelled the scores there was an inevitability that the home side would find a winner, and Caylan Vickers did just that before Eoin Toal got a red card in stoppage time.

Probably the worst case of failing to capitalise when on top that the Whites had all season.

7. Northampton Town (A) 1-1.

On one hand, a battling point with 10 men, on the other, a case of ill-discipline costing Bolton more ground in the promotion race.

George Thomason’s first-half red card was disputed in the Wanderers camp to the degree that referee Jeremy Simpson gave Ian Evatt a red card at the interval. The manager’s ban was later successfully appealed but his midfielder served out a three-game suspension.

Carlos Mendes Gomes scored an equaliser but would soon find his own season ended by a ruptured Achillies, summing up Bolton’s fortune with injuries in the New Year.

6. Wigan Athletic (A) 0-1.

Still stinging from defeat at Blackpool – a game blighted by defensive lapses and farcical refereeing – Evatt had called for a strong reaction. He got one, but once again wayward finishing proved costly.

Sam Tickle was inspired in the Latics goal and a loss of concentration at the back left the Whites winless against their local rivals in the league for a decade.

Stephen Humphrys did the damage after what had been a one-sided contest. Bolton had managed 20 shots at goal, Wigan had managed four – the fewest of any team to beat them all season long.

5. Exeter City (A) 2-2.

Another first half where Bolton could have been out of sight. Paris Maghoma’s goal had them ahead but what Evatt termed a “mad three minutes” after half time saw Sonny Cox score twice for the Grecians and leave the Whites chasing again.

Eoin Toal scored late on to give a different complexion to the evening but there was to escaping the fact they had shot themselves in the foot once more.

4. Derby County (A) 0-1.

Perhaps the pivotal result of the whole season, and one that effectively gave the Rams a six-point swing.

Wanderers had ample chances to get themselves into the lead, the best falling to Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, and for the first 45 minutes they looked capable of ending their long wait for a league win on Derby soil.

Kane Wilson’s header 12 minutes from time sent a large home crowd wild and though Evatt insisted that the promotion battle was “not over” with 21 points still to play for, there was no disputing that his team had been given another harsh lesson in profligacy.

3. Stevenage (A) 0-0.

The type of point that would have felt more rewarding at the start of the campaign but, with Bolton’s need so great in the final stretch, not enough in the circumstances.

Evatt conceded that his team had looked “petrified” against their awkward hosts in conditions hardly ideal for possession-based football.

Derby had opened up a six-point gap by this point, and the pressure was starting to tell.

2. Portsmouth (H) 1-1.

Beaten at Fratton Park four months earlier, Bolton had a point to prove and some added incentive in not wanting to give Pompey the satisfaction of winning the title on their soil.

After a sloppy start the Whites gave a reasonable account of themselves and created plenty of chances – yet finishing the most crucial ones to kill off the game was still a skill that eluded them.

Derby had the advantage once again.

1. Shrewsbury (H) 2-2.

If Bolton’s season could be summed up in one game, here it is. They rained a season-high 25 shots on the Shrewsbury goal, 13 on target, and yet we were all left thinking about the ones that got away.

This was the night that left Wanderers needing a miracle to catch Derby. Cameron Jerome and Paris Maghoma had twice levelled after sloppy defending gifted goals to Daniel Udoh and Jordan Shipley but the third simply wouldn’t go in.

Nat Ogbeta’s close-range miss was the stuff of nightmares, while Jerome and Jack Iredale also hit the woodwork. The Whites had the opportunity to close the gap on Derby to a single point with two games to play but fluffed their chance.