After the horror show at Bristol City a couple of weeks back, Wanderers fans could be forgiven for heading to Griffin Park with more than a hint of trepidation.
Jimmy Phillips' starting line up featured several academy graduates. An unfamiliar back 4 featured Alex Finney and Niall Maher, along with Derik Osede and Dean Moxey. Tom Walker was given a start on the left, Kaiyne Woolery on right, with Josh Vela, Darren Pratley and Liam Trotter in the middle of the park. Zach Clough was playing up front on his own.
Bolton made a slow start. Within a minute, a long ball got behind the Bolton defence and forced Finney to play the ball out for a corner. The first cross into Ben Amos' penalty area, headed wide by a Brentford forward, was a taste of things to come.
The opening 45 minutes was a procession for the home side. A second corner resulted in a shot at goal which was blocked in front of the line, and the pressure continued to build when Wanderers gave away a free kick 25 yards from goal, but a poor strike didn't test Amos.
Bolton weren't at the races. Brentford were keeping the ball easily - their keeper rolling out short goal kicks to their back four, and the Bolton forwards failing to press the ball high up the pitch.
In the 12th minute a sliced Alan Judge cross nearly caught the Bolton number 1 out, the ball coming back out off the bar. Every single cross that Brentford put in to the box seemed to trouble the Bolton back 4, and in the 16th minute the deadlock was broken.
A cross from the right wasn't dealt with by Maher, and the ball was pulled back to the edge of the box, with Nico Yennaris able to turn the ball home from the resulting shot. 1-0 down.
Wanderers seemed to spark into life - a decent ball from midfield found Vela on the edge of the box with time to take a touch and get a shot off, only to be denied by the post. He should really have done better.
The spark of life was quickly extinguished. In the 25th minute, another short goal kick was played to the right back. He launched the ball down the line to Vibe. He got a cross in, and Bolton failed to deal with it. The ball ricocheted back to the forward who rounded Amos and turned the ball home past three defenders on the line. 2-0.
Again, Bolton looked to respond when Clough found room on the edge of the box and dribbled at the Brentford defence before slamming an effort well over. Shortly afterwards, the contest was well and truly over. Vibe, seconds after being compared less than favourably with Andy Carroll by the travelling Bolton fans, was to have the last laugh. Yet another cross from the right, and the Dane applied a simple glancing header into the corner. 3-0. Half time.
On the evidence on this first half performance, it'll be another long season in League One next season. Bolton looked nervy in possession, and void of ideas. A lack of movement in front of the ball puts pressure on the defence to find a pass, and results in giving ball away far too much. The slow, laboured passing made it easy for Brentford to win the ball back, who were effective at making their small pitch as large as possible, with both wingers out on the touchline throughout.
Alex Finney was subbed during the half-time break, replaced by David Wheater, which provided a platform for a slight improvement from the away side. It was a slow start to the second half from both teams. Neither side created an opportunity of note before Phillips introduced Neil Danns in place of Tom Walker, with Clough moving to the left, and Woolery moving into the middle. Woolery operated far more effectively through the middle and was able to hold the ball up to give Wanderers a chance to get forward more. He managed to bring the midfielders into the game with Vela and Trotter both having strikes at goal, but failing to test the keeper.
Woolery was much more of a handful for the Brentford centre backs to deal with and was soon rewarded with a penalty. Given the chance to run at the defence, he got into the right hand channel and into the box before being tripped. Clough stepped up, and dispatched the spot kick. 3-1.
Bolton were unable to add to their solitary goal. A couple of half chances when Clough got space on the left in stoppage time were as good as it got. Brentford never really needed to get out of second gear for the entire second half.
If performances continue to be as poor as the first half in West London tonight then we're going to have problems next season. Hopefully the experience gained by the youth players at the end of this season will stand them in good stead to consolidate and perhaps push for an immediate return to the Championship, but you have to wonder how damaging these performances and subsequent results are going to be to their development.