WANDERERS grafted for a point at Port Vale after playing in blazing heat for nearly an hour with 10 men after the dismissal of Ricardo Santos.
Ian Evatt – who also saw red during the half time break – will be proud of his players’ defensive efforts to secure a point.
He had warned that Vale Park’s atmosphere would test his players – and so it proved.
Referee Ross Joyce was persona non grata last season when he sent off Santos for a deliberate handball in a stormy game at Morecambe, the decision later being overturned on appeal.
This 90 minutes proved no less fractious. Joyce once again produced a red card to the Bolton captain for two bookable offences, then another at half time to ensure irate manager Ian Evatt did not come back out for the second half.
The bad-tempered contest started with Vale on the front foot, Wanderers putting themselves under some pressure with misplaces passes and clearances at the back.
But they started to get some momentum when Jack Stevens was forced into a fingertip save by Dapo Afolayan, who did well to keep an angled shot on target.
Santos picked up his first yellow card in a crowded penalty box, waiting for a corner. Nathan Smith hit the deck theatrically but it was not immediately clear how much the big defender had to do with it, especially as the same issues occurred a few seconds later when the ball was played into the six yard box.
Amadou Bakayoko had a big shout for a goal ruled out by the officials. Following another Jack Iredale corner the striker managed to divert the ball towards goal. Referee Joyce said the ball had been hacked off the line but close-up replays suggest it might have crept over.
Ben Garrity slashed a shot wide for Vale, Connor Hall also going close from point-blank range, but then the pendulum swung Bolton’s way as MJ Williams’ shot was again blocked on the line.
Ref Joyce had words with Santos moments before the tangle with Ellis Harrison which brought about the red card.
Wanderers’ goalkeeper coach Matt Gilks was also booked as the bench vented their anger at the decision and both Evatt and his assistant Pete Atherton waited at the tunnel for the officials at the half time interval, before being led away.
Words were exchanged in the tunnel and word was quickly passed to the press box that a red card had been shown to the Whites boss.
In such heat, the second half looked a tall order with 10 men.
Wanderers made a tactical change, swapping Will Aimson for Dapo Afolayan, and defended as well as they have at any stage under Evatt in the final 45 minutes plus six for stoppages.
James Trafford made a string a saves, the pick of the bunch from Ellis Harrison’s far-post header which drew begrudging applause even from the home supporters.
Jack Iredale and George Johnston were immense as Bolton protected their penalty box but, equally, Valiants’ debutant keeper Stevens walked away with the sponsors’ man-of-the-match award for a sparking save from Aaron Morley in a rare Wanderers attack.
Amadou Bakayoko also had a big chance after a fine ball through the middle from Kyle Dempsey but the striker’s indecision allowed Lewis Cass to get back and make a challenge.
Points do not come much more hard-earned.