A strong Bolton Wanderers team containing seven players with first team experience took to the more familiar surroundings of the Macron Stadium on Monday night and played out a 1-1 draw against Birmingham City.
We lined up in a peculiar 3-4-3 formation which saw Filip Twardzik deployed on the left of a three-man defence. He was joined by Hayden White and Quade Taylor with Niall Maher and Andy Kellett pushing on as wingbacks. Oscar Threlkeld and Channing Campbell-Young screened the defence whilst Jamie Thomas was deployed in a sort of 'false nine' role with George Newell and Kaiyne Woolery either side of him.
Much like the first team, we won a lot of corners early on and we looked a threat from them with Threlkeld and Kellett whipping a few dangerous deliveries into the box. However also like the first team, nothing came of them. After ten minutes, Threlkeld spotted Birmingham keeper Jacob Weaver off his line and tried to chip him from outside the box but his effort only found the side-netting.
Jamie Thomas (who presumably a lot of the crowd were there to see) was struggling to get into the game, having to drop deeper than he might have liked to in search of the ball. But after 22 minutes, Woolery produced a moment of brilliance; picking the ball up 40 yards out, he just used his pace to drive at the Blues' left back, leaving him for dead before he coolly slotted underneath Weaver.
Kellett and Maher were both getting forward well and getting balls into the box. Kellett's high crosses may have been appreciated by Gary Madine but a few of them sailed over the heads of the diminutive front three. Maher's were much lower and harder, causing panic in the Birmingham defence and winning us even more corners.
Weaver in the Birmingham goal possessed an absolutely ridiculous throw, and it came in handy on the 35th minute when he threw it well into our half setting up a counter attack. In the following passage of play, Wes McDonald picked the ball up on the left-hand side of our penalty area and pulled out a bit of a shimmy before fizzing the ball towards Ross Fitzsimons' goal. Fitzsimons seemed to be on his way down as the shot went over his head into the goal. On first impressions, it seemed like he could have done better with it but he might have been unsighted.
Just before half time, Thomas won a free kick. It was quite a soft one but as he stood over it, their was a sense of anticipation around the ground - well the West Stand anyway, considering that was the only stand open - but his free-kick was hit straight into the wall and the less said about Twardzik's follow up the better.
The second half started at a frenetic pace with Fitzsimons being forced into a save before Newell stung Weaver's palms with an effort, which he did well to turn behind. It evolved into quite a drab affair after that with chances for both teams at a premium. Their goalscorer McDonald was making a nuisance of himself though and he forced Fitzsimons into a fantastic low save around the hour mark.
Jamie Thomas was replaced by Jon Ceberio after 70 minutes, it was an off-day for him but it's hard to forget that this is his first season at this level so he's not going to score every single week. The game really seemed to fizzle out after that but Bolton will be happy to have kept their unbeaten record going for another week.