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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » Accrington 2-0 Bolton: Marc Iles' verdict on EFL Trophy exit

Accrington 2-0 Bolton: Marc Iles' verdict on EFL Trophy exit

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Few tears will be shed at Wanderers’ exit from the Trophy, with much greater challenges ahead in the league.

A last lingering chance of Wembley passed by on a chilly night as goals from Offrande Zanzala and Colby Bishop booked Accrington a date with Fleetwood in round three.

That is not to say there was not an element of frustration on the players’ faces as they trudged off the pitch – their improved efforts in the second half at least hinted at a side that wanted to stay in this competition.

They huffed and puffed after Thibaud Verlinden’s introduction at the interval but with top-scorer Daryl Murphy perched on the bench, awaiting this weekend’s trip to Peterborough, their attack lacked bite.

Hill named a youthful line-up, bringing Josh Earl back after suspension alongside Adam Senior, James Weir and Dennis Politic. Joe Dodoo, Adam Chicksen, Josh Wright and Daryl Murphy dropped to the bench.

The Bolton boss has often spoken about using this competition as a training exercise and there was definitely something experimental about a formation that had Senior playing in midfield and Jason Lowe at left-back.

That the game even began at all is testament to a new pitch at Accrington, which would surely have struggled to contain the evening downpours in the past.

But begin it did, and the slow start Wanderers made did little to reward the 500-or-so fans who had made the treacherous trip.

Just 10 minutes had elapsed when Remi Matthews skewed a goal kick and Jordan Clark was first to it, playing a ball through for Zanzala to bundle his shot over the keeper into the net.

It was a scruffy finish befitting a game that never really got started in the first half.

Accrington had a succession of set pieces but only once really threatened to extend their lead when Jerome Opoku beat Yoan Zouma, his angled shot pushed over the bar.

Wanderers had finished strongly on Saturday but the same zip was lacking in their attacking play, Politic and Ronan Darcy struggling to get into the match until the last few minutes of the half.

One relatively encouraging passage of play saw Politic narrowly fail to get on the end of Weir’s cross.

Midfielder Weir was playing his first game since the 3-1 victory against Manchester City’s Under-21s at the end of October but he was another Wanderer operating on the fringes of the game early on and – not for the first time in his Bolton career – was replaced at half time.

Another player who didn’t come out for the second half was Zouma. The Frenchman was not at his best against the pace and movement of Zanzala, probably not helped by a knock he took midway through the half.

With Chicksen and Thibaud Verlinden on at the break, Wanderers instantly looked a different prospect.

Josef Bursik made a fine double save, blocking Verlinden’s angled shot and then getting up quickly to deny the advancing Darcy.

Stanley had also made an attacking change, bringing on Colby Bishop, one of the players who had helped themselves to two goals when the sides met a few weeks ago.

He also made an instant impact, involved in a move which ended with Matthews making a superb fingertip save from Sam Finley.

Despite going close, the home side suddenly looked uncomfortable in their lead. Verlinden’s added cut and thrust had given them more to think about, and each time possession was wasted in the Bolton half, the Belgian was the instant go-to man.

Verlinden’s performance against Accy last time out had been heavily criticised, reinforcing the view seemingly held by Hill that he is more effective as an impact sub. Seeing him make such a marked difference, as he did here at the Wham Stadium, makes you hope that the manager soon changes his mind.

As the icy rain fell once again midway through the half, Bolton fans who had retreated to the covered stand chanted to those in the uncovered terrace “you’re not singing anymore!”

The mood on the terraces was certainly better than it was a few weeks ago – and it would have improved further had Josh Emmanuel’s shot been a few inches inside the post when a corner dropped to him with 10 minutes to go.

Instead, a wonderful surge from Clark ended with a powerful left-footed shot that proved too much for Matthews to handle, and Bishop was there to tap in from close range.

Defeat was nowhere near as painful as it had been in the league, and fans walked back into the evening with a shrug of the shoulder than a shake of the head. But it was nevertheless another reminder of the shallow depth of the Wanderers squad when Hill attempts anything like rotation.


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