By William Kirkpatrick
As another season dawned on the newly named ‘University of Bolton’ Stadium, Bolton Wanderers were looking to build on from the previous campaign when they won their battle to avoid relegation back to League One.
Optimism was low among fans going into the second successive season in the Championship due to the purging of the squad. Key players such as Darren Pratley, Filipe Morais and Jem Karacan departed, allowing the club to bring in a crop of Championship standard players, having previously survived by the scruff of their necks.
Bolton’s pre-season was eventful, to say the least. A respectable 0-0 draw against Girona was followed by a 3-1 thumping by Guiseley, while off the pitch there was similar unease and instability.
A player strike hit headlines as certain players were not paid monthly wages, as well as league survival bonuses. This was quickly resolved but left a sour taste in the mouths of fans.
On paper, Bolton’s opening fixtures couldn’t have been tougher. They had to travel to former Premier League side West Brom on the opening day - a meeting which looked sure to end in defeat.
Five players made their debuts, including Josh Magennis, a target of Bolton’s on transfer deadline day in January following the departure of Gary Madine.
Bolton started the game the brighter and opened the scoring when some intricate footwork from Ameobi took him to the by-line and he crossed towards Magennis who connected well to score within minutes of his debut.
West Brom levelled on the stroke of half time when a lovely curling Harvey Barnes effort from distance nestled in the top corner.
The Baggies took control of the game from the second half but were unable to capitalise on their possession and Bolton took advantage to score a late winner.
A Josh Vela corner was met by the head of David Wheater who found substitute Yanic Wildschut, another debutant, and he scored from close range and secured the three points.
For their first home game of the season, Bolton were pitted against high fliers of last season Bristol City.
City coasted through the first half, seemingly always in control but it was Bolton who emerged from half time looking the better team.
A Vela corner was met by Wheater and Will Buckley bundled the ball in from very close range, which was saved behind the line by Bristol’s goalkeeper.
Three minutes later, Bolton doubled their lead when a lovely low cross by Olkowski found the feet of Magennis in the box and he fired past the keeper.
Despite being in a commanding lead, Bolton failed to truly test a defence which looked shaky and this came back to haunt them.
Andreas Weimann halved the deficit before mounting City pressure paid off with nine minutes remaining as Jamie Patterson cut in from the left-hand side and fired past Ben Alnwick.
Although some were frustrated as Bolton squandered a two-goal advantage, four points in two games against decent opposition is be something to lighten the mood of sceptical fans. You only needs to look back to last season where they managed only two points in 11 games.
Wanderers went out of the Carabao Cup at the first stage as they were beaten at Leeds United.
Patrick Bamford gave Leeds the lead with a clinical low finish and Samu Saiz doubled their advantage with a powerful shot.
Erhun Oztumer got Wanderers back in the game from the edge of the area early in the second half Jonathan Grounds came close to a leveller on his debut, but Leeds held on.