It wasn’t meant to go like that.
Bolton’s ‘first game of the season’ ended up not too different to a lot of the ones before it, as they were thrashed 6-1 by Rotherham United in Keith Hill’s first league game in charge.
Of course, there are still huge mitigating factors. This team had two weeks together, not even that if you want to be exact, whereas an average pre-season would be three times the length. If they played like a bunch of strangers, it was because that what they will still be to each other. Left-back Adam Chicksen’s signing was publicly announced after the team sheet was submitted.
But there could arguably only be two Bolton players who could be happy with their performance. Liam Bridcutt, given the captain’s armband by Hill on his debut, while Thibaud Verlinden’s fourth minute angled strike from short distance sent the sell out away crowd down the other end into ecstasy. It was our first league goal of the season.
It wouldn’t last though, with Freddie Ladapo and Carlton Morris scoring twice each, those goals being topped and tailed by Ben Wiles’ equaliser (what a glorious 10 minutes those were when we were winning) and Jake Hastie’s 65th minute tap-in.
The match stats weren’t too much different to some of the previous pastings. There did seem to be more of a willingness to play out of the back, with the teams pretty much matched in possession, but again we were wide open, with us conceding 24 shots, while we had six and just two on target.
That won’t have been helped by the lack of a striker. Neither Daryl Murphy nor Chris O’Grady were in the squad, while Ali Crawford played in the middle, probably the one person out of him, Verlinden or Dennis Politic who I wouldn’t have chosen to fill the makeshift striker role, or false nine if you want to sound clever.
Now two home games follow, with Oxford and Sunderland both visiting within the next week. Hopefully these new players can learn on the job as quickly as possible, because while everyone understands the situation, repeated thrashings will get a bit boring.