On Wednesday evening, Bolton Wanderers went head to head with League Two side Crewe Alexandra at Gretsy Road in the first round of the newly named 'Carabao Cup'.
Wanderers lined up with a team almost unrecognisable from that one which started on Sunday against Leeds. Ben Alnwick started in goal with Mark Little and Antonee Robinson as wing-backs, a back three of Darby, Burke and Derik. Darren Pratley returned to captain the side in the middle of the park along side youngster Jack Earing and Will Buckley. Full debuts were handed to our two front men Adam Armstrong and Aaron Wilbraham.
After a slow start to the game, Bolton soon found themselves being dominated by the home team, with numerous efforts on goal having seamlessly broken through our back line. With Crewe on top and full of confidence, it was no surprise that just before half time, Chris Porter put them ahead with a clever headed finish from close range which beat Alnwick at his far post.
The only other thing to note from the first half was the constant jeers from the away end towards George Cooper who had gone down 'injured' within the first 30 seconds. The winger, who turned out to be only 19 years of age, took the stick very well to be fair to him. The lad went on to work well with the relentless jeers and boo's whenever he touched the ball, he produced some impressive crosses and through balls and was by far Crewe's most dangerous player in front of goal, fair play.
Half Time came and Bolton were one down and almost looks down and out, it would take a stern talking to from Parky to change things...and so it proved to.
Wanderers came back out early for the second half and once the whistle blew, started as a new team. Despite no changes being made, it was as if a completely different eleven were playing. Those who had struggled in the first half such as Robinson, Earing, Buckley and Prately all upped their game tremendously which soon saw the 978 travelling Whites fans behind the team rather than on their backs.
Despite the huge improvements that were clearly influenced by Parky's team talk, that crucial equalising goal continued to be evasive, action needed to be taken, and how it was. Upon the hour mark, Gary Madine, Jem Karacan and Filipe Morais replaced Aaron Wilbraham, Darren Pratley and Mark Little respectively. These changes went on to prove the difference between the two sides and eventually helped change the final scoreline.
Soon after the changes, a rejuvenated Antonee Robinson beat his man for pace, brilliantly slipped through Will Buckley who then pulled it back across goal for Adam Armstrong to slot home his first Bolton goal at the near post, game on.
Wanderers were once again backed throughout the game by the travelling fans which must've helped the team keep up the momentum and go on to turn the game round. An extremely confident Gary Madine was the fans favourite on the night and unsurprisingly played out of his skin. Some excellent knockdowns off his chest and delicate flicks on to Armstrong and Buckley was met by the chants of "We've got Madine! Gary Madine! I just don't think you understand! He's Phil Parky's man! he's better than Zidane! we've got Gary Madine". The chant continued to ring out from the away terrace right through until the final whistle.
Before the 90 minutes was up though, it was a Filipe Morais and Derik Osede combination that earn Bolton the spoils. A typically perfectly-weighted cross from 'The Postman' found Derik's head who nodded it past the 'keeper into the far corner sending Wanderers fans into delirium, silencing an over-confident and dismal Crewe turnout.
After the second goal, Bolton went on to run riot and barely looked threatened from that point onwards, nearly grabbing a third before the whistle. However, despite looking comfortable on the ball and composed enough to see the game through, a scare deep in to stoppage time after Alnwick flapped at a driven corner nearly saw Crewe scrape their way to penalties at the death, but it wasn't to be, thank god.
Full Time and Wanderers had turned it round and had progressed into the second round of the League Cup. Watch out for the draw at 10pm tonight.
Wanderers: Alnwick, Little(Morais), Darby, Burke, Derik, Robinson, Earing, (Karacan) Pratley(c), Buckley, Armstrong, Wilbraham(Madine)
Alexandra: Garratt, Ng, Raynes, Walker(Bowery), Nolan, Ainley(Pickering), Wintle, Lowery, Dagnall(c), Porter, Cooper