Danny Wilson got the Christmas Day surprise present he did not want when Stoke City recalled goalkeeper Jack Butland from his loan spell at Barnsley.
The Premier League club called back the 20-year-old England goalkeeper following an injury to Stoke’s No 1 Asmir Begovic and Butland was an unused substitute in yesterday’s 5-1 thrashing at Newcastle United.
It left Wilson to gamble on goalkeeper Luke Steele, who was recalled after three months out with a back injury.
Not that the 29-year-old – who showed no adverse reaction after returning to training on Christmas Day – deserved to be on the losing side yesterday.
He thwarted Bolton at nearly every opportunity, but could do nothing to deny Neil Danns’s superb second-half winner, a curled effort which crept inside the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.
Asked if Butland’s recall had thrown his pre-match plans into turmoil, Wilson admitted: “It did throw us. Last night at 11pm we didn’t have a goalkeeper to play today.
“We talked to Luke, who was brilliant I have to say, he hasn’t played for a long while.
“We didn’t expect him to be fit, quite honestly, he had one training session yesterday and we didn’t know if he would have a reaction with his back.
“We spoke to him at length and he was so positive that he wanted to play. That attititude was tremendous.
“If we can keep that type of application and attitude in all the players towards the end of the season we won’t have a problem.”
Wilson was forced to name teenager Christian Dibble – who has yet to feature since a summer switch from Bury – on the bench, and is now keeping his fingers crossed Steele suffers no reaction after his first match since a 5-1 defeat to Watford on September 21.
Wilson added: “We will see Friday how he is. We have a real problem if he isn’t fit.”
Steele was one of five changes for the Reds after the 0-0 draw at Leeds United, with Marcus Tudgay having returned from his loan spell to Nottingham Forest and Jacob Mellis suspended.
Tomasz Cywka and Lewin Nyatanga dropped to the bench, while there was a welcome recall for striker Chris O’Grady, himself missing through injury for eight weeks.
The striker was the focal point of Barnsley’s attack, and but for the in-form Andy Lonergan, the hosts would have celebrated Wilson’s first home game back in charge at Oakwell with a couple of first-half goals.
First the goalkeeper raced to deny O’Grady as Kevin McNaughton’s back header fell short, then saved well from Martin Cranie’s back-post header at a corner.
Barnsley cranked up the pressure and had several chances just before the break.
Stephen Dawson’s low cross was put behind for a corner by Tim Ream, and from the resulting set-piece Bobby Hassell’s header was blocked by Lonergan, who also kept out long-range efforts from Jim O’Brien and O’Grady.
A lapse at the back nearly gifted Darren Pratley with a chance for Bolton, but the Reds should have taken the lead in first-half stoppage time. O’Brien fizzed in a shot, which caused panic in the visiting ranks, and just as Peter Ramage looked to knock the loose ball home a great goal-line block by Alex Baptiste saved the day.
After the break though, Wanderers piled the pressure on themselves and Steele had to be alert to deny Pratley, Zat Knight’s header and a 25-yard screamer from Ream.
But the goal the visitors were threatening arrived in the 64th minute as Danns – playing the final game of his loan spell before returning to Leicester City – cut inside and curled his shot beyond a helpless Steele.
Not even the industry of substitute Paddy McCourt could create an equaliser as Wilson finished empty-handed on his Oakwell return.
Barnsley: Steele, Wiseman, Ramage, Cranie, Kennedy, O’Brien, Hassell (McCourt 69), Dawson, Perkins (Cywka 86), Scotland (Pedersen 86),O’Grady. Unused substitutes: Nyatanga, Mvoto, Dibble, Fox.
Bolton: Lonergan, McNaughton, Knight, Ream, Baptiste, Spearing, Pratley (Lee 72), Eagles (Medo 81), Mark Davies, Danns (Mills 87), Mason. Unused substitutes: Beckford, Hall, Moritz, Lee-Barrett.
Referee: A Haines (Tyne & Wear).