The 73 days since Bolton Wanderers last took to the field, has felt like an absolute age, I’m sure you’d agree. Thankfully that long wait finally came to end on Tuesday night as Wanderers faced Rotherham United, at The New York Stadium, for their first game of pre-season.
But unfortunately, it wasn’t the best of ways to welcome back the football.
New signings Rob Hall and Conor Wilkinson started the game along with youngsters Cian Bolger, Chris Lester and Jan Gregus. It was actually quite refreshing to see the younger players of the squad given a chance to impress the manager, for once.
The match got underway, in the evening sunshine, and Bolton were immediately on the back-foot. Tim Ream (playing left-back) had to slice the ball clear from beneath his own crossbar, within the first couple of minutes.
Rotherham continued to put pressure on the Bolton backline, winning most of the possession and creating chances. The best of which fell to Karl Arnason, who headed over a cross from, the deliciously named, Ben Pringle.
Bolton began to grow into the game a bit more with Gregus, who looked quite tidy on the ball and Hall, who looks like he could be really useful in the coming season. The whites got their first shot on goal in the 18th minute when Marvin Sordell cut in from the right, but Shearer, in the Rotherham goal, easily dealt with his tame effort.
Another opportunity presented its self to Bolton when Wilkinson, was upended outside of the area, after he cleverly flicked the ball over a Rotherham defender’s head. Hall stepped up, but his effort hit the side netting. Then, Matt Mills almost managed to bundle the ball home from close range, after he was the first to a swinging free kick from Hall.
Rotherham then got them selves back into the game and began to test the Wanderers defence, who somehow, after several heart-in-mouth moments on the goal line, managed to keep the score at 0-0.
The score even stayed at nil-nil after a golden chance fell to the way of Daniel Nardiello. The striker was mere inches away from sliding in a wonderful cross, from the right hand side, but he was just agonisingly too short.
Just two minutes later, the deadlock was broken, and the goal undeservedly fell to the men in white.
Hall, who was a constant danger throughout, danced past two challenges before getting to the byline and teeing up the advancing Marvin Sordell, who swept the ball into the net.
Rotherham were unscathed after the Bolton goal, and the game should have been level before the break. Defender, Claude Davis, rose highest to meet another accurate cross from Pringle. But his header sailed aimlessly over Bogdan’s goal.
The teams went in at half time with the score at 0-1 to the Wanderers, a score that flattered them, in all honestly. Rotherham dominated large portions of the game, and were unfortunate not to get on the score sheet.
The second half kicked off with no changes for either side.
The Millers, started the second half as they ended the first, dominating proceedings. A long ball was cushioned into the path of Lee Freklington, whose dipping volley flew just wide of the post, from 20 yards.
Rotherham continued to press for an equaliser and had many opportunities to do so, with Nardiello, Worrell and Freklington all squandering chances. However, United finally got the goal their efforts deserved on 63rd minute mark.
Bolton lost possession stupidly, in the middle of the park. The Ball found it’s way to the impressive Pringle, who delivered another pinpoint cross, which found Revell at the back post, who directed a low header into the goal.
Bolton almost scored an instant reply as Ream’s searching ball, over the top, fell perfectly for Lester. However, the youngster dragged his shot wide when he should have done better,
That would be his last involvement of the game as Chris Eagles, Samni Odelusi, Marc Tierney and Alex Baptiste replaced him, along with Hall, Mills and the disappointing Tyrone Mears. Only seven minutes had passed before Freedman made five more changed to the side, with Medo, Darren Pratley, Joe Riley, Craig Davies and Zat Knight coming on for Wilkinson, Andrews, Bolger, Sordell and Ream.
Bolton started seeing more of the ball, but made little of it, every player seeming to opt for one more pass instead of a shot. Craig Davies did take a half-chance, as he blazed a shot from 25 yards way over the bar.
The game was equally poised and could have gone either way, but with three minutes left on the clock, the wining goal went to the hosts. It was that man Pringle, yet again, with the decisive ball as he split the Bolton defence to play through Nardiello, who calmly slotted the ball past the stretching Bogdan, to the delight of the Rotherham fans.
The result and performance were disappointing, with some ropey passing, static movement and suicidal defending but it has to be remembered this is a pre-season friendly, that means extremely little in the grand scheme of things, so nobody should be calling for heads just yet.
The game was a good run out for Dougie’s squad and I’m sure the match has given him a lot to think about, for when the big day arrives on the 4th August.
Final Score: Rotherham 2 - 1 Bolton Wanderers
Attendance: 2,470 (440 away fans)