Bolton Wanderers began their first team pre-season schedule with a 2-1 defeat to Austrian side SK Sturm Graz yesterday in a hard-fought game played in front of a crowd of literally hundreds at the Kumberg (hehe) Stadium.
An experimental Wanderers side struggled early on, as the 'away' side proved difficult to handle with their swift movement and adventurous play.
The first half side included new summer recruits Ben Amos and Gary Madine, whilst experience came in the form of unsteady French centre half Dorian Dervite, stand-in captain Liam Feeney (no laughing please), the returning Medo Kamara, Neil Danns and Zach Clough also started. Clough was wearing the no.10 shirt, which pleases me greatly.
Sturm Graz attacked from the off, and a makeshift central defensive partnership of Dervite and Hayden White looked nervous, which comes as no surprise really given the late-season (as in from October) form of the former.
Wanderers' best chance came, unsurprisingly, from Zach Clough - the Denton-born wizard tricked past a pair of bamboozled Austrian defenders in a wonderful display of balance and guile, but his curled shot could only find the far post. What a talent he is.
Madine then spurned a fine chance, heading straight at the Graz goalkeeper from a presumably mis-hit Feeney cross.
The Austrian side opened the scoring just before halftime when a clever corner routine evaded the assembled Wanderers players, giving Kristijan Dobras an easy finish beyond former Manchester United keeper Ben Amos.
The second half brought in a new Wanderers side, including the likes of Darren Pratley, Jay Spearing and Mark Davies.
This injection of experience saw the lads pull one back soon after. Davies pinched the ball from a dawdling defender (not Dervite), rounded the goalkeeper and slid home to level things up.
The game petered out and looked to be heading for a draw until the erratic referee made the wise choice to award a penalty with five minutes remaining. I confess I wasn't really paying attention, but the commentator seem perplexed as to why it was given. I believe Dean Moxey was adjudged to be guilty of a pull-back on the Graz player, but that sounds like bollocks frankly.
Kienast scored beyond substitute goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons, though his joy was short-lived as he was sent off a couple of minutes later for a shocking challenge on Oscar Threlkeld. It was nice to see the lads' Wanderers teammates coming to the youngster's aid, though perhaps in a league game Pratley might have seen red himself for his somewhat 'vigorous' defence of his colleague.
Overall it was a decent runout for the lads, and whilst we're trying not to read too much into it, it does perhaps show that we need more experience in the ranks.