Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Bradford City

  • September 05, 2020 | By Chris Mann
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Ian Evatt's first game in charge of Bolton ended in defeat, as they were beaten 2-1 by Bradford City in the first round of the Carabao Cup.

189 days since the University of Bolton Stadium last played host to competitive football, Wanderers were left with a familiar taste as they crashed at the first hurdle for a third successive season.

Lee Novak had given the visitors a 26th minute lead, tapping in from close range, but the Trotters were back on level terms within 90 seconds of the restart as Antoni Sarcevic lashed home from the edge of the box.

The Bantams booked their place in the next round with 15 minutes to play, though, as substitute Harry Pritchard looped a header beyond Billy Crellin to seal an away victory for Stuart McCall's side.

Shaun Miller was announced as Bolton's 17th summer signing 90 minutes prior to kick-off, so it came as no surprise to see as many as 10 debutants from the off - with Alex Baptiste the only player to have previously represented the club - breaking a club record that was set in August 2019 when eight fresh faces got their first appearance.

Sarcevic ran out as captain for the first time, supporting an attacking duo of Eoin Doyle and Nathan Delfouneso, but it was the visitors who had the better of the opening exchanges - coming close to an opening goal on several occasions.

The first chance arrived with six minutes on the clock as Brandon Comley was caught in possession. Billy Clarke was picked out with a cross from the right-hand side, but his goalbound header was blocked by the body of Ricardo Santos.

The Bantams were back on the attack on the quarter-hour and they came within a matter of inches of breaking the deadlock, with Crellin alert to get his fingertips to a chipped attempt from Clarke.

They came even closer from the resulting corner, but no City player could get a telling touch to Clarke's wicked ball across the face of goal.

Then, perhaps a little against the run of play, Santos burst forward and clipped a wayward cross towards the far post which came back off Richard O'Donnell's crossbar and away to safety.

O'Donnell was called into action for the first time on 19 minutes, making a routine save to parry away a strike from Delfouneso, before Crellin once again produced heroics to deny Novak at the other end in a one-on-one situation.

Callum Cooke and Tom White fired wide at either end, before the deadlock was broken on 26 minutes as Novak was picked out unmarked to tap home from close range after Bradford had once again got in down the right-hand side.

Doyle saw a shot deflect behind off Novak as Bolton looked for an immediate response, shortly before George Taft advanced into the final third before shooting narrowly over the top from 20 yards.

A clash of heads between Delfouneso and Cooke halted play for several minutes, effectively taking any sting out of the play, but there was to be one final chance before the break as Delfouneso looped a header into the arms of O'Donnell, who ensured the visitors took their advantage into the interval.

There were no changes to either side as the players returned for the second period, which began in perfect style for Bolton as Sarcevic fired home on the half volley to bring the scores level at 1-1.

The Wanderers captain came close to doubling his tally for the afternoon five minutes later, bending a 25-yard strike narrowly wide of O'Donnell's left-hand post.

Connor Wood shot over midway through the half, shortly before Delfouneso was denied a clear run at goal by Anthony O'Connor, but it was Bradford who went ahead for a second time with little over 15 minutes remaining.

A routine cross from the right flank caught Santos cold at the far post, where substitute Pritchard was alert to head back across goal and into the corner to make it 2-1.

Miller was introduced as debutant number 11 with nine minutes to go as Evatt switched to a more attacking 4-3-3 formation, but it failed to have the desired effect as Bolton couldn't carve out any further opportunities.

In fact, the only attacking moment in the latter stages fell the way of a former striker - Clayton Donaldson bringing Crellin into a near-post stop after he beat beaten the offside trap.

Defeat means Bolton bow out of the competition at the first-round stage for a third consecutive campaign but they will get a chance to make amends as soon as Tuesday, when they host Crewe Alexandra in their first group fixture of the EFL Trophy.

Bolton Wanderers: Crellin, Gordon (Miller 81), Taft, Baptiste, Santos, Jones, White, Sarevic, Comley (Crawford 68), Doyle, Delfouneso
Subs Not Used: Alexander, Delaney, Hickman, Tutte, Amoateng
Goals: Sarcevic 47

Bradford City: O'Donnell, P O'Connor, A O'Connor, Staunton, French, Watt, Cooke, Wood, Clarke (Pritchard 62), Novak, Guthrie (Donaldson 72)
Subs Not Used: Longridge, Richards-Everton, Ismail, Hornby, Scales
Booked: Pritchard
Goals: Novak 26, Pritchard 75

Referee: Martin Coy

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Sky Bet League Two Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
15 Colchester United 23 30
16 Port Vale 25 29
17 Bolton Wanderers 24 28
18 Harrogate Town 22 26
19 Scunthorpe United 24 26
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