Arguably Bolton's best player in the troubled opening months to the 2013/14 Championship season, Marc Tierney, will be sidelined for the next few months. The club confirmed that the left back did indeed suffer a fractured foot, sustained in a 50/50 challenge with Everton loanee, Shane Duffy, in the Yeovil Town draw. Tierney is the club's only recognized senior left back and with his absence comes another selection dilemma for Dougie Freedman.
Make no mistake about it, there are options for Bolton Wanderers at the back, the problem is that none of those options are anywhere near ideal. There are plenty of players that have played or can play in the position for the Trotters but none of them are natural, experienced left backs.
Tim Ream has been employed in the spot a few times by Dougie Freedman already this season, most notably in the "B-Team" pre-season friendlies that featured heavily-experimental lineups. In the Rotherham United match, Ream was employed on the left side of defense with Tyrone Mears on the right and the pair of Matt Mills and Cian Bolger in the center with the American performing reasonably well. Since then, Tim Ream has become a bit of a regular in the Bolton side once again after struggling to fit in for the better part of a year. He has, however, been playing mostly in midfield, just ahead of the defense. Against Yeovil Town, Dougie Freedman changed things up and started Ream in the center of defense. With no fullbacks on the bench, Ream slid to the left following Marc Tierney's injury when Freedman's only defensive option was to bring Zat Knight into the match.
Andy Kellett is the promising, young full back that has shown well time and time again for the academy and reserve sides but has yet to be given a first team chance. The youngster, touted as the future of Bolton Wanderers, made the bench for the 3-1 loss at Brighton & Hove Albion but has not made a professional debut yet. While he is a recognized left back unlike the other options available to Bolton Wanderers, he is still very raw. Throwing him into the Blackpool match against a team that sits just outside the playoff places would certainly be a trial by fire. Dougie Freedman has shown that he isn't afraid to give youngsters a tough test (Eaves v. Leicester City, Odelusi v. Charlton, Rob Hall v. Blackpool, and so on) but putting Kellett out for the full match may be too big of an ask.
Alex Baptiste has played at left back already this season, specifically in Marc Tierney's absence against Blackburn Rovers, and it wasn't at all convincing. Alex Baptiste has grown into his role on the right this season after a very shaky start and there is every possibility he could do that on the left if given the chance but at the moment, it's not a comforting proposition. Still, he has spent the most time there this season out of the available options and will only get better with more practice.
Some of this depends on if Kevin McNaughton's loan is finally granted international clearance. The Cardiff City defender cannot play for Bolton Wanderers yet but if the approval is acquired in time for the match, fans may see him slot in on the right, taking pressure off that side of the defense while allowing Baptiste to move to the right. Tyrone Mears, a competent defender in his own right, doesn't seem to be in Dougie Freedman's favor and will probably only be called upon if another option doesn't exist.
The Baptiste route may be the likeliest for Dougie Freedman to take but it's far from the most comforting. Whether the manager decides to go with something (somewhat) familiar or throw caution to the wind is something that we will have to be on the lookout for but until the lineups drop ahead of the match, it is very much wait and see. The replacement candidates will just have to make sure that Bolton Wanderers don't miss Marc Tierney.