It was all change in the dugout, as Jimmy Phillips lined up for the first time alongside David Lee – and there was an unfamiliar look about the team-sheet as it arrived off the clubhouse printer half an hour before kick-off.
Parkinson had held an 11 v 11 training match at Lostock in the morning, which meant the likes of Jake Turner, Connor Hall, Liam Edwards and Jack Earing were unavailable.
Lee was left with an eclectic mix of his remaining squad players, Under-18s and trialists five of which started the game.
Among the cast of strangers were Polish winger Boris Jaloszynski, former Sunderland man Wright, Fleetwood youth product Liam Collings, pony-tailed ex-AFC Liverpool Scouse youngster Leon Arnsalam and Jacob Gardner-Smith – who arrived for a trial via Zenit St Petersburg’s second team and is the son of Barry Gardiner – Labour MP for Brent North.
One couldn’t help wondering that, given recent events, this would have been a good opportunity for the first team to make an appearance, even in a non-playing capacity. Some pictures and handshakes might have helped to appease some of the disappointed supporters.
There wasn’t a great deal to cheer people up on the pitch, either, if you had come to watch Wanderers.
Danny Lambert’s dipping volley for Colls was the only noteworthy action of the first 25 minutes as both teams struggled to get the ball down on a dry pitch.
Colls brought the game to life soon after as Ben Conway’s well-timed pass caught the Wanderers defence flat and Luke Giverin was able to nip in and slide his shot past James Aspinall.
From there, the game started to spice up a bit. Stephen Duke-McKenna was a lively presence up front but it was Arnnsalam who registered Bolton’s first shot on target, his low effort bringing a first save out of Greg Hartley.
Lambert put another effort just over the crossbar as the half wore to a close, triggering a flurry of half time substitutions – nine for the home team and three for Wanderers.
Colls brought on target man Tom Bentham, a former Hyde United striker who has been playing in Australia. He gave the Bolton back-line a few problems in the second half and also chipped in at the other end to clear away the few set pieces Bolton managed to earn.
Bentham produced one stinging volley to nudge the crowd out of their slumber on the hour – palmed away well by keeper Aspinall – who impressed throughout.
Wanderers’ best work was coming through the two trialists in midfield, Collings and Wright, neither of whom shied away from possession in what became a difficult pitch to deal with.
And the flow of the game was not helped as the substitutions flowed, including the introduction of Morgan Bruce-de-Rouche, an ex-QPR youth who is probably not the big-name signing Wanderers fans have been waiting for.
Even more intriguingly, a Polish keeper known only as “Konrad” entered the field with 10 minutes to go.
Wanderers nearly snatched an equaliser when Wright’s dipping shot bounced off the crossbar and was tucked over the line by sub Eddie Brown. Unfortunately, ref’s assistant Mr P Simm disagreed and rather harshly ruled offside. Where’s VAR when you need it?
Just as people started to file back out into the streets of Atherton an equaliser did materialise. Former England Under-17 international midfielder Wright produced a neat finish from 10 yards out after playing a one-two on the edge of the box with Collings to raise an ironic cheer from the majority of those leaning against the barriers.
Even “Konrad” has his moment, parrying a late effort to ensure this fixture finished as a draw for the fourth consecutive year in a row.
Wanderers XI: Aspinall (Konrad 80), Brockbank (Osigwe 68), Hartshorne (Preston 46), Jones-Griffiths, Muscatt (Boon 46), Wright, Collings, Gardner-Smith, Jaloszynski, McKenna (Brown 46), Arnsalam (Bruce-De-Rouche 68)
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