The Phil Parkinson era began with a hark back to a Bolton Wanderers of ages past this afternoon. It wasn’t pretty but Bolton Wanderers’ 1-0 victory over supposed title favourites Sheffield United had stenches of our most successful side in recent memory.
Parkinson’s maiden starting eleven had a very clear ethos of ‘you won't score and we'll score one if we can, but if we don't then we'll take a point.’ It might sound defensive, negative or even boring, but frankly after the woeful defensive performances we've been subjected to in recent years I will take this every week if it leads us to glory at the end of the season.
The new look Wanderers was very much a case of Sam Allardyce v2. It began with the impressively solid defensive duo of new arrival Mark Beevers and new old boy David Wheater.
The defence rarely looked threatened after an opening 20 minutes in which the visitors could have been three goals up, with former Bury man Leon Clarke particularly guilty of missing a point blank header.
Wanderers were on the back foot for most of the first half and struggled to create chances or even pass the ball to each other, but seized control of the game thanks to a wonder strike from Jay Spearing. A corner broke to the little man outside the box and he fired it home brilliantly into the near corner.
Bolton looked the better side in the second half and seemed buoyed with confidence. Spearing and Josh Vera looked particularly impressive in central midfield, as we enjoyed a five minute spell of attacks in which Darren Pratley - who looked energised and actually not bad in the second half - went closest with a superb header. Pratley fell foul to a serious looking injury with 10 minutes to go and, having made all three subs, we were reduced to ten men. Sheffield pushed forward and knocked cross after cross into the box to no avail, and eventually ended up resorting to going to ground at the slightest of touch in and around the box - which thankfully the referee largely ignored. All in all it was a welcome return to life at this level. Without Zach Clough and Max Clayton through injury, and with Mark Davies only on the bench, we were never likely to be oozing creativity, and we did what needed to be done to secure all three points. Which would never have happened under Parkinson’s predecessors.
Oh, and Lawrie Wilson playing right wing? I'm not sure what that was all about, and can only assume it was to give debutant Lewis Buxton support at right back. Or for his new found Kevin Nolan-esque long throw taking ability. But let's just say a winger he is not.