DAVE Crouch saw some of the best and worst of his Bolton side as they came from behind to beat Littleborough 27-24 in a nervy finale.

In appalling conditions in the shadow of the Pennines, the Cherry and Whites slumped to a 19-0 deficit against North Lancs/Cumbria’s bottom team.

But Will Bate’s try made it 19-5 at half time and a remarkable improvement in the second half – with Gaz Pritchard’s score adding to a penalty try – saw Crouch’s side, led by captain and man-of-the-match Louis Critchlow, brought them back to within two points with seven minutes left.

Even Chris Cockton diving over for the winning try four minutes from time was not the last act of a nail-biting afternoon as Littleborough’s kicker just failed to convert a last-ditch penalty that would have levelled the scores and denied the visitors victory.

“I had been on the sideline tearing my hair out in the first half,” said Bolton’s head coach Crouch.

“We just let them run right through us and there were a few words said at half time, to put it politely, we hadn’t been tackling them properly or closing them down at all.

“But the second half was one of the best halves we have played in ages. We controlled the ball really well and hardly gave Littleborough a look-in. We really got it together.”

The home team, who have had to overcome a 10-point deduction for red cards accrued last season, moved off the foot of the table despite their defeat, thanks to a four-try bonus point, and Crouch was full of praise for their part in a more entertaining match than the conditions should have allowed.

“Littleborough are a good side and, even with the points deduction, I don’t understand why they’re at the bottom of the table.

“But we showed great commitment and effort, our skill levels are improving all the time and – although not in the first half on Saturday – our tackling is far better than it was at the start of the season as well.

“We’re getting that improvement week on week, which is what we wanted to see this year.

“As a team we’re coming together more and I’m pleased with our progress from where we were at to where we are now.”

Having moved up a place to eighth in the table, Bolton will now look to make it four wins from four in 2018 when they welcome Hawcoat Park this Saturday.The Cherry and Whites won the reverse fixture in Barrow in October, running in six tries in a 38-15 victory. Crouch is not expecting an easy ride against a team that beat Wigton 39-10 last weekend, however.

“They had a very good win against an almost full-strength Wigton,” he told The Bolton News. “We are in for a difficult game. They’ll bring a big, powerful pack so we’ll have to be well organised and drive well off the line.

“We will have Rhys Pritchard available again, which is great news. We thought he may have fractured an eye socket against Oldham but X-rays have shown he only needed stitches and he wasn’t concussed so he’s okay to play.

“I can’t fault him, he’s an excellent captain who shows what he can do week in, week out. Andy Wood and Owen McKenna are not available but Alex Waddicor and Chris Brownlow are back.

“We’re looking forward to it, we’ve won three out of three in 2018 so we’re feeling positive.”