Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Coventry City

  • August 10, 2019 | By Chris Mann
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Saturday 10th August 2019 will be a day that lives forever in the memory of everybody associated with Bolton Wanderers Football Club.

113 days - a week shy of four months - since Wanderers last stepped out on home soil, a squad with an average age of just 19 - some of whom were sitting their GCSE exams a little over 12 months ago - battled against all the odds to secure a goalless draw in a League One fixture against Coventry City.

When all is said and done, nobody will remember that the game was played in front of a record low league crowd at the University of Bolton Stadium.

Nobody will remember how the Sky Blues had three goals ruled out by offside calls.

And, most importantly, nobody will remember how the entirety of the senior squad refused to play, because the youthful prospects who took their spots gained a place not only in Wanderers history but also in the hearts of their supporters and watching families in the stands.

After handing debuts to no less than eight players in the opening-day defeat at Wycombe Wanderers last time out, Bolton boss Phil Parkinson made five changes for the visit of the Sky Blues.

Remi Matthews, Jason Lowe, Luke Murphy and Erhun Oztumer all dropped out after opting to strike, while Josh Earl was unavailable after undergoing surgery on an ankle injury on Friday that is likely to rule him out for upwards of three months.

Matthew Alexander came in for a debut in goal, while the inclusion of Ronan Darcy, Sonny Graham, Callum King-Harmes and Joe White gave the Wanderers starting XI an average age of 18 years and 10 months - the youngest in the club's long and illustrious history.

Come 3pm, referee James Adcock sounded his whistle for the first time and it took just three minutes for the much-fancied visitors to register their first attempt on goal, with Jordan Shipley shooting tamely into the arms of Alexander from the edge of the box.

For all their possession at Adams Park last weekend, Bolton struggled in the final third but they had a sight of goal on 10 minutes, with Dennis Politic firing a yard over the crossbar after receiving a quickly taken free-kick from James Weir.

Both goalkeepers were alert to the danger by intercepting low crosses as the clock reached the quarter-hour, before the first real scare for Wanderers passed by on 19 minutes when Brandon Mason stepped forward from left-back to drag a powerful strike inches wide of Alexander's far post.

With the half-hour approaching, Coventry had the ball in the net as Wesley Jobello tapped home from close range. As he wheeled away to celebrate with his fellow teammates, enraged Bolton players made their protestations known to the referee and his assistant, who subsequently raised his flag for an offside and ruled the goal out.

The hosts came close to breaking the deadlock moments later when a corner from Darcy was only cleared to the edge of the box, where a first-time volley from King-Harmes forced an outstanding reaction save from Marko Marosi in the Coventry goal.

City increased the pressure in the latter stages of the half, however, with Zain Westbrooke, Kyle McFadzean and Shipley all failing to seriously trouble Alexander.

One final chance before the break saw Liam Kelly break into the Wanderers box, but a combination of Alexander and White denied the midfielder and ensured the sides went in goalless at the interval - much to the delight of a rapturous home crowd, who cheered their players off the pitch with great delight.

There were no changes to either side as the players returned for the second period, which began with Yoan Zouma putting his body on the line to thwart the progress of Jordy Hiwula as he set himself for an attempt on goal.

Jobello, who had earlier seen a goal ruled out, came close on 51 minutes with a shot from the edge of the box that just cleared the crossbar.

Then, for a second time, the Sky Blues had the ball in the net only to be left frustrated by an offside flag.

A cross into the box picked out an unmarked Hiwula, whose miscued effort was turned home by Amadou Bakayoko. However, in similar circumstances to earlier scenes, the celebrations were cut short and play ordered to continue with the score at 0-0.

Frustrations were clearly beginning to get the better of several Coventry players at this stage, with McFadzean heading wide of the target shortly before Bakayoko saw appeals for a penalty turned down after a tussle with Liam Edwards.

Politic made a name for himself by scoring from the halfway line during a loan spell with Salford City last season and he came close to replicating the achievement on 66 minutes, spotting Marosi off his line before seeing a long-range effort land wide of the target.

16-year-old Finlay Hurford-Lockett was handed a debut midway through the half, coming on as a replacement for King-Harmes after he had succumbed to cramp.

With 20 minutes to play, Maxime Biamou tested the hands of Alexander with a 25-yard free-kick which bounced up off of a slippery surface, while Shipley drilled wide several minutes later with the goalkeeper seemingly beaten.

Bolton had been on the back foot for much of the second half but came agonisingly close to opening the scoring on 79 minutes as Politic spread the play to Hurford-Lockett, whose low ball across the face of goal was just too far ahead of the advancing Brown who was sliding in at the back post.

Despite that, Coventry continued to look the more likely scorers and came close yet again when Matt Godden shot wide, shortly before the City forward's blushes were spared when he missed an open goal from six yards - only to be rescued by an offside flag.

The visitors peppered the Wanderers goal in the closing stages, with Alexander's abilities being put under serious test as he got down to deny Jobello, Godden and Kelly in quick succession.

At the other end, Brown headed straight into the arms of Marosi as the fourth official's board was raised to signal four minutes of added time, during which there was to be one final piece of drama.

With an offside flag already at the centre of controversy on two separate occasions, Coventry were left fuming for a third and final time when Biamou lashed home in the third minute of stoppage time only to turn and see the assistant stood with an arm in the air.

It was to be the last act of a memorable day at the University of Bolton Stadium, where the final whistle was greeted with a cheer so loud it could easily have been mistaken for one whose team had just won the Premier League title.

Off-field events continue to hit the headlines, but Bolton's heroic youngsters will forever have a place in the history books regardless of where the club finishes the season and how their respective careers pan out.

Parkinson's side must now gather their focus and recharge their batteries, ahead of a Carabao Cup first-round tie at Rochdale this coming Tuesday evening.

Bolton Wanderers: Alexander, White, Edwards, Zouma, Brockbank, Politic, Weir, Graham, King-Harmes (Hurford-Lockett 67), Brown, Darcy
Subs Not Used: Hutchinson, Boon, Senior, Brown-Sterling, Richards, Riley
Booked: Brown, Weir, Darcy, Politic

Coventry City: Marosi, Dabo, McFadzean, Rose, Mason, Westbrooke (Bapaga 87), Kelly, Shipley, Jobello, Bakayoko (Godden 60), Hiwula-Mayifuila (Biamou 60)
Subs Not Used: Wilson, Hyam, McCallum, Eccles
Booked: Dabo

Referee: James Adcock
Attendance: 8,901

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Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
19 Rochdale 34 36
20 AFC Wimbledon 35 35
21 Tranmere Rovers 34 32
22 Southend United 35 19
23 Bolton Wanderers 34 14
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