We thought we were up against it last weekend. This weekend, it seemed even more so.
The Senior Five of Ben Alnwick, Remi Matthews, Jason Lowe, Erhun Oztumer and Luke Murphy opted not to make themselves available for selection, and so Phil Parkinson really did have to rely entirely on the Under-23s against Coventry.
Only one player was above that age – summer signing James Weir is 24. Harry Brockbank, playing his fifth game ever in league football, was given the armband. Even if there was an entirely legitimate reason the Senior Five didn’t take the field yesterday, Phil Parkinson would be a brave man to take the armband back off Brockbank now. Just to push home how young this squad was, if you offered to buy every single one of them a drink, 10 of them would have to settle for a Coke and a bag of crisps.
The Bolton Babes. Has there ever been a younger senior squad? Numbers on right are their ages. pic.twitter.com/ywsMEctNM2
— Alan Nixon (@reluctantnicko) August 10, 2019
It was a relief in a way, just to be back inside the University of Bolton Stadium, even though they made it as hard as possible with the ticketing arrangements. It was a stadium with minimal advertising boards, no betting facilities, and even the half-time entertainment seemed scaled down – all little pointers of the state we are in.
But on the pitch, there was plenty to smile about – Matt Alexander was superb in goal, all of the back four did their jobs, Brockbank looking calm with his relative experience, Liam Edwards doesn’t seem to have the cult acclaim that Yoan Zouma is fast attaining, but he was equally as good. Dennis Politic tried another long range effort – the amount of times he does one is surely going to come off, while Ronan Darcy was last seen doing his 5758th lap of Horwich.
There are downsides – because these are kids and it is understandable and inevitable. Coventry had the more chances, three goals ruled off for offside and a number of penalty decisions. Hopefully we’ll create more chances going forward.
But the crowd rightfully responded to yesterday’s effort from the young Wanderers. You’ll never see a goalless draw in August being celebrated like yesterday’s effort was. Normally, people would heading for the exits before the final whistle. It even happened the day we were promoted from League One. Yesterday, that didn’t seem to be the case, and the players were applauded off in a way I’ve not seen at home in a long while.
They should be proud of themselves. We certainly are.