The January window continues to be a pleasant distraction from the real world, and a league table which is starting to look somewhat of a concern.
A couple of hours before kick-off Bolton were able to unveil Rochdale’s Aaron Morley as their new signing – the midfielder seemingly a key component of Wanderers 2.0.
The original version then took centre stage, suffering from some of the same old bugs.
A defensively suspect opening goal conceded to Brandon Hanlan, then a second to Jack Grimmer which killed the contest with virtually a full half to go. There were flashes of what the future Bolton may have to offer early in the game and Wycombe are a well-drilled side on course to return to the Championship. But Bolton still have something to prove, and patience on the terraces is starting to wear thin. Evatt made three changes to his last line-up, bringing Will Aimson, Kieran Lee and Amadou Bakayoko into the starting line-up for George Johnston, Nathan Delfouneso and the injured Elias Kachunga.
At first, the result was pleasing. Wanderers played some bright football in the opening half an hour and had chances to open the scoring.
The front three of Dion Charles, Dapo Afolayan and Bakayoko had undergone a movement-heavy warm-up, and they instantly went about their business in a different way, hassling and tormenting the Wycombe defenders every time they paused in possession.
Charles was tormentor in chief. He was picked out by a pinpoint pass from Lee on the edge of the box but halted by the linesman’s flag as he turned to goal. But the Northern Ireland international also had another effort blocked by David Stockdale and looked a lively presence up top on his home debut.
Likewise right-back Marlon Fossey, who produced consistently good delivery early on. He almost bagged himself a goal too after Afolayan’s shot deflected into his path at the far post but ended up in a heap on the floor after clashing heads with Jordan Obita.
That was one of several lengthy stoppages in the first half which stretched it to an hour in length. Wycombe played their part, with some Olympic class timewasting that referee Peter Wright struggled to manage.
But Gareth Ainsworth’s side do what they do well. Just when the pressure looked to be building on their own goal, one swift break threatened to put them ahead.
Joel Dixon made a fine save after Brandon Hanlan had put Garath McCleary in on goal but the let-off was only temporary, and a few minutes later Hanlan took advantage of a hastily retreating Bolton defence to drill a low shot into the bottom corner. On this occasion, Dixon did not cover himself in glory, with only a weak hand to try and stop the ball.
Wanderers had produced some good football but once again found themselves behind with a goal that looked eminently preventable.
George Thomason skimmed the bar with a shot from the edge of the box, Charles was inches away from turning in Lee’s right-wing cross. There was plenty to admire about the way the Whites were going about their business but the big scoreboard in the corner told a different story.
Wycombe wasted every second they possibly could, which was a ballsy move with only half of the game gone. But their gamesmanship had the desired effect and Bolton’s attacking rhythm had all but disappeared by the time they finally got back down the tunnel.
Barely six minutes after the restart, the visitors had doubled their lead. Hanlan again made a menace of himself on the right side of the box and when he cross was blocked the ball fell invitingly for Jack Grimmer to curl a superb shot into the top corner. Not bad for his first goal since May 2018.
Wanderers still had time to muster a response. Evatt brought on Gethin Jones, who was incredibly playing in his second match of the day.
The full-back had turned out for 45 minutes of the reserves’ game against Accrington at Lostock at lunchtime but then been drafted on to the bench for what was his first senior appearance since late October.
Jones’ arrival allowed Fossey to push forward and play as a more orthodox wide midfielder, and the crosses produced by the Fulham man continued to look Bolton’s best chance of getting back into the game. Time after time he put the ball into good areas, only for the chance to go begging. If Eoin Doyle was watching, he may have afforded himself a rueful smirk that the same service was not offered earlier.
Bolton ultimately lacked conviction in that last 25 minutes and that should be food for thought as Evatt plans for the final fortnight of the transfer window.
Charles had run his race by that stage, his replacement Nathan Delfouneso still looking like a striker way down on his luck. And as a result, most of the chances Bolton created in the latter quarter of the game were pot-shots from distance.
Wycombe too had settled. Sam Vokes hit one shot from 25 yards that was guided behind by Dixon, otherwise the back line sat deep knowing only Fossey had the requisite direct pace to do them any harm.
Deep into stoppage time, George Thomason shook everyone from their comfort with a fierce effort which bounced off the inside of the post. Those Bolton supporters who had stayed so late seemed appreciative for the chance to clap their hands.
The smattering of folk in the away end chanted “we are going up” into the dying minutes and it is hard to disagree with them. Wycombe may not be everyone’s cup of tea but they are perfectly formed in the mould they want to be.
Bolton, by comparison, still look like a project half finished.
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