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Match Report: Tranmere Rovers 1 Bolton Wanderers 1

It was all square in Wanderers' latest pre-season friendly, but the squad is looking to round into form, and Chung-Yong Lee has finally returned after his World Cup exploits (or lack thereof).

I was blind, but now I see.
I was blind, but now I see.
Clint Hughes

Newly-named Captain Jay Spearing scored a nice goal for Bolton Wanderers in the first half, and Eliot Richards leveled for Tranmere Rovers in the second half.  That said, what is important in preseason remains the fitness of the players, not to mention whom manager Dougie Freedman is electing to play, and for long he is playing them.

The most notable aspect of this match was that Freedman played a 4-4-2 from the start for the first time this preseason.  We all know Dougie prefers the 4-2-3-1 formation, but he has shown a willingness to play other setups when the opponent (or personnel) calls for it.  It's good to see the team get a chance to play the different formations together, as we did on Friday.

Bolton only have two senior forwards at the moment, so it is little surprise who started at the top of the 4-4-2.  Craig Davies and Jermaine Beckford have played together just about never, but they did seem to work well together in the early going.  It was Davies' one-two with Spearing that created the goal, so both players do have a willingness to set up their teammates.  Beckford came off at halftime for Conor Wilkinson, who is the only other striker we have seen for the club this preseason.

The midfield featured four central midfielders, a tactic Freedman also used for a period last season.  Jay Spearing, Neil Danns, Darren Pratley, and Mark Davies is a group that runs a lot, but I would personally prefer to see some wingers.  Liam Feeney and Chung-Yong Lee granted my wish in the second half, but neither did anything notable.

It sure looks like Andy Lonergan will be starting the season in goal for Bolton, as Adam Bogdan's back problem continues to make him unavailable.  The defense in front of Lonergan is starting to come into shape.  Kevin McNaughton started at right back, and seems fairly certain to retain that position ahead of Joe Riley.  Matt Mills was in the middle again, and has just been named vice-captain.  Dean Moxey was at left back again, and youngster Oscar Threlkeld, his only real competition for the shirt, was nowhere to be seen.

The only remaining question on the back line is who will partner Mills.  The early favorite seemed to be American Tim Ream, but new signing Dorian Dervite has had a couple of starts lately, and even completed 90 minutes Friday.  David Wheater is still not fit, and Cian Bolger has fallen out of the running.

Bolton Wanderers' next scheduled friendly is Wednesday, July 30th against Port Vale.