Bolton continue their wildly unpredictable preseason with a 3-1 win over Tranmere Rovers in their penultimate preseason match. This was Tranmere's first loss of the season, and only Bolton's second win. Bolton's latest loan boy, Benik Afobe delivered the win with an unlikely second half hat trick in his second match with the Trotters.
The first half seemed largely quiet, with Chung-Yong Lee once again being the undeniable star of the show. Andy Lonergan got the start, and played all 90 minutes as goalkeeper. Owen Coyle started with the 4-4-2, putting Marvin Sordell and Kevin Davies up top, Mark Davies and Darren Pratley in the central midfield, with Chris Eagles on the left wing and Chungy on the right. As for the defense, the youth were given a shot with Joe Riley starting at rightback and Marcos Alonso at leftback. Zat Knight and Tim Ream completed the lineup.
The Trotters started aggressively, earning a freekick, which was taken by Eagles, that was just tipped around the post by Tranmere keeper, Fon Williams. Five minutes later, Chungy had a go, teed up by a Sordell cross, but his volley went just wide. After that the action died down, with Tranmere getting some chances of their own, though none close enough to really worry Longergan. The movement seemed to mainly be going through the wings, while the midfield struggled to gain traction, a problem the Wanderers are very familiar with.
At halftime, Coyle made a double change taking off Knight and Sordell and replacing them with Matt Mills and Benik Afobe. This ended up really paying dividends. Just 5 minutes after the restart, Afobe pounced on a defensive mistake and put the ball away from 10 yards out, his first goal for Bolton. In the 74th minute, Afobe doubled the lead, heading an Eagles freekick home. Two minutes after that, he got the hattrick, drilling the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Tranmere did managed to pull a goal back, in a goalmouth scramble off a Max Power corner in the 90th minute, but overall Bolton can't be too disappointed in the result. It did once again illustrate that when the team gets into it, they can do good things, but as with last season, consistency is seriously lacking. The midfield problem still hasn't been solved, and it's beginning to looks like Coyle is just trying to paste something together until Stu Holden's return in October. It's a dangerous strategy, given Stu's fragility, but if he can play anything like he did in that magical season, it could well work.
The club took this opportunity to debut the new third kit, a grey affair with red highlights, which is accompanied by white shorts. The shirt will be available for purchase for a limited amount of time in October. Based purely on Twitter, the reaction to the kit seems very mixed. For myself, I'm just thankful that it's only the third kit and only a limited edition. After all, Bolton wouldn't be Bolton without at least one horrendous shirt. Let us know what you think of it in the poll.