Bolton A Work In Progress
Setting out once again for the five hours by train, luckily this time having avoided a schoolchild error and bringing my laptop charger this time, the initial part of the journey to Edinburgh rolled by in a haze of Football Manager before being greeted by the clear blue skies and the resplendent beauty of the Scottish capital. I still hold that no city is better looking when the sun is out than Edinburgh. A quick pit stop for a pint and a bite to eat and I was again able to get giddy about making the trip over the Forth Rail Bridge (sad I know) before the epic journey around Scotland`s East Coast to the majestic city of Dundee, the home of my two favourite comics from my childhood, The Beano and The Dandy.
I'm also sure that Desperate Dan, immortalised with his own statue in the city centre, would whole heartedly approve of the Scotch Pies on offer in the ground, so good that I had to have a second. This was obviously done in the name of research as I had to double check that my opinion was an informed one, and nothing to do with me being a greedy b******.
After the train arrived, a 10 minute walk to my hotel for the night followed, before a freshen up and a pint in the hotel bar whilst I got my bearings for the pubs and a route to the ground. A visit to Spoons worked wonders as I bumped into a few others who had made the journey north.
At 6pm I began the trek up to the ground, a walk that pits any of the big fells in the Lake District to shame. Top tip, if you are ever going to Dens Park or even Tannadice Park (they are across the road from each other) get a taxi unless you are an Ironman triathlete, you might just about make it without keeling over.
So, Dens Park. Best described as rustic. It reminded me of a cross between Turf Moor in Burnley and The Shay in Halifax. Those who are used to the creature comforts of the Macron need not apply, but, it had a character and the pies were bloody good.
Onto the game. Bolton started in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Alnwick in goal, Darby and Taylor at full back, Wheevers in the middle, Karacan and Pratley sat just in front, Ameobi on the right, Buckley on the left and Vela just in behind Madine. It was the visitors who enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges but the survived a scare after 15 minutes when Alnwick just about got to the ball ahead of O`Hara and the ref pointed for a corner. I expected him to point for a penalty. Kamara then went Close with a header from the resulting corner. It wasn't long until Bolton took the lead, just three minutes later, Beevers pinged a 40-yard ball straight onto Madine`s chest, the big man doing well to stay onside, controlling the ball well and rolling a calm finish under the advancing Bain.
The Whites went further ahead on the half hour when Madine knocked the ball down for Vela to arrow a low drive across Bain into the bottom corner from just outside the area. It was a quality strike from a player who looks far more comfortable in an advanced position. Buckley should have made it 3 after being played in by Pratley but his finish was weak and straight at Bain. Madine also had a pop from a free kick and his dipping effort was well saved. The Wanderers went in at half time holding a deserved lead, playing quick, incisive, fluid football which was a joy to watch.
As for the second half, well, the less said, the better. Party made two changes at half time with Howard replacing Alnwick and Chris Taylor coming on for Sammy Ameobi. In truth, the Whites never got going from the off, looking disjointed and ragged, the sort of thing you expect from a Bolton team without being unduly threatened until just before the hour when Wolters had a pop and tested Howard at his near post, the keeper pulling off a good save.
Another nine changes were made just beyond the hour with the rest of the starters being replaced by Little, Brockbank, Dervite, Lonsdale, King, Derik, Hall, ALF and the trialist. It also brought a change in shape to a 4-3-1-2 with ALF in the pocket behind Trialist and Hall. Unfortunately it didn't bring a change of fortunes as the home side continued to dominate, Howard making two excellent saves firstly to claw away an effort from El Bakhtaoui and then somehow saving from Haber at point blank range. Bolton went close when Brockbank nearly connected with Chris Taylor's wide free kick and when Trialist won the ball at the edge of the Dundee area, cut inside and had a go, but that one probably looked closer than it was.
Dundee finally got on the scoresheet after an incisive through ball from the midfield carving open the defence and McGowan made no mistake, smashing the ball home from 10 yards giving Howard no chance. It was the least the home side deserved. A nervy 15 minutes followed, with another change of system to a conventional 4-4-2 with ALF finding himself on the right of midfield. Bolton saw the game out to continue their 100% pre-season record and send the 165 travelling Wanderers away to the pub happy.
The Wanderers, just like Dundee`s waterfront are a work in progress, looking to add a touch of flair and creative style to the solid foundations built last season. Ameobi and Buckley look like they have added extra quality to the squad and Karacan in the Spearing role looks like another upgrade.
Only time will tell.