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Match Report: Arbroath 1 v 2 Bolton Wanderers

A local game for our local correspondent

After taking a wrong turn in Dundee, I was late for the match and missed kick-off.

By all accounts it doesn't sound like I missed much action, as the game started slowly.

One would suspect that the Bolton Wanderers starting lineup at Gayfield will bear little resemblance to the team that starts against Leeds on the opening day of the season, besides perhaps Adam Le Fondre and Mark Howard.

I'd speculate that Mark Little will be backup to Stephen Darby, Our Doreen will be backup to Wheevers, and Chris Taylor will either be on the bench or back in League One.

The remainder of the starting XI were youngsters, and while one or two did their chances of gametime in the coming season no harm with their performances, you could tell the team as a whole hadn't played a lot of matches together, and the 4-4-2 diamond formation we employed was slightly unfamiliar.

As the half went on Jack Earing asserted himself on the game, and I thought his performance was really tidy. Sitting at the base of the midfield diamond, he was disciplined, got stuck in with a few good tackles, and looked positive on the ball. He got his head up and tried to play the ball forwards, but wasn't wasteful with it. Who knows, maybe we already have a ready made replacement for Jay Spearing? Except less shouty and on more reasonable wages.

Mark Little got forward well to support Jeff King on the right, and Connor Hall looked lively up front. As the Wanderers grew in confidence and pushed forward, Hall's running made space for Adam Le Fondre to ghost into the box from his unfamiliar attacking midfield role, slipping past the defender who dove in rashly and gave away what looked like a stonewall penalty from where I was standing. He duly got up and dispatched the resulting spot-kick with aplomb, smashing it down the middle.

One nil up and cruising... for 60 seconds.

Chaos at the back as their man got in behind Doreen Dervite too easily, with Mark Howard panicking, flying out of his goal and bringing him down for another penalty, which was calmly converted to level the game. All in all a bit of a daft goal to give away. The rest of the half petered out without much incident.

The second half saw Ben Alnwick replace Mark Howard in goal, and saw an upturn in the Whites' performance. Connor Hall started brghtly and continued in this vein until he was replaced on 60 minutes. He was lively, quick, and strong – he “ran the channels” well, and once he was on to a pass he dribbled and held onto the ball well.

The opposite can be said for his strike partner, Swiss trialist Tabakovic. He looked slow and lumbering – I'd go so far as to say he reminded me of Gregor Raziak, and even made his replacement Gary Madine look dynamic. I can't imagine we'd have a serious interest in signing him based on this performance.

The second goal was all about Connor Hall – great running off the shoulder of the defender, then latching onto a cracking ball through (although I couldn't see who from), showed his strength to then hold off the defender and create space for himself, before unselfishly squaring the ball. This would have left Tabakovic with an easy tap-in, but Arbroath defender Tom O'Brien got in the way and bundled the ball into his own net.

After this came wholesale changes, with all ten outfield players being replaced. You could tell that this team more closely resembles the team that finished last season, and is likely to start this season together – more experience, and a more obvious cohesion than before.

The midfield, marshalled by Jem Karacan, retained a good shape and the team held onto the ball better. Vela showed a few good touches, the defence looked solid, and Karacan read the game well (and seems to have taken on some of Spearing's vital point-and-shout role).

The Goal Machine looked more mobile than the man he replaced, and linked up much better with the team – but still hesitated when presented with a glorious chance to head in a third goal from a great right-wing cross, chesting it down and losing possession instead, and misplaced a few easy passes.

Alnwick looked hesitant and flapped at a few crosses, but overall the team looked comfortable and solid to me after the changes, and for the final 30 minutes the win never really looked in doubt.

All in all, a nice trip out to the seaside, with some positives to take away – foremost being the performances of Earing and Hall.