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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » MARC ILES' BIG MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Aston Villa

MARC ILES' BIG MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Aston Villa

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Relegation may now be confirmed but already there is a resolve to bounce back at Wanderers.

This defeat established the fact Bolton will be a League One side next season – a fact we have all come to accept for some time now.

It has been the proverbial death of a thousand cuts, most of them inflicted by a club owner who had no respect for the tradition and history he had inherited, nor the loyal staff doing his bidding on a daily basis.

Fans have had time to get their head around the drop for some time – and there was a world-weariness about the stadium as goals from Jack Grealish and Tammy Abraham sealed their fate.

But there were also signs of hope around the sun-kissed terraces that the man who took his place for the first time in the directors’ box, Laurence Bassini, might just be able to live up to his word, and “sort out this mess” once and for all.

There is plenty of mess to sort. Much of it psychological. Here in the youthful form of Luca Connell or debutant Harry Brockbank, though, there were examples of the future Bassini is fighting to save.

Change is in the air at Wanderers and before a ball was kicked it was noticeable the Neil Diamond sing-along, Sweet Caroline, which had been somewhat of an anthem of the Ken Anderson era, was nowhere to be seen. The 633 Squadron theme tune added a nice nostalgic touch.

With Craig Noone and Sammy Ameobi out injured Parkinson shuffled his side to include 20-year-old academy graduate Brockbank.

The Harwood-raised youngster has knocked on the first-team door before and been a regular for David Lee’s Under-23s. His inclusion in this instance was a perfect chance to see what he offers for next season in League One.

Brockbank certainly let nobody down. Faced with the movement and pace of Anwar El Ghazi he got back on the line 15 minutes in to clear a John McGinn header – a fact acknowledged by the home fans with a warm round of applause when he jogged to the touchline for a drink on the half hour.

Villa had the better of the first half and should have opened the scoring when Grealish’s wicked cross picked out Dutchman El Ghazi at the far post, only for him to slice a shot wide.

Ben Alnwick – back in goal for the first time since January 21 – got down well to block another low drive from McGinn following a quickly-taken short corner.

Abraham and Glenn Whelan also had shots blocked as Wanderers stubbornly packed their penalty box.

Injuries have quietly mounted for Wanderers of late, and they got two more to add to the list as David Wheater and Gary O’Neil were forced off in the opening 45 minutes.

Wheater limped off with what looked like a calf problem, while O’Neil appeared to clash heads with Villa defender Neil Taylor, thankfully leaving the field of his own volition after a stretcher was called at one stage.

Chances, or indeed attacks, were few and far between as Bolton spent much of their time patiently tracking their runners, defending their box, or looking accusingly at Leicestershire referee John Brooks, whose decision-making on the day was less than satisfactory.

Clayton Donaldson did bring a smart stop from Jed Steer with a snap-shot and Will Buckley also had a goalbound effort blocked when Brockbank’s deep cross fell fortuitously.

And when the half-time whistle sounded it was to supportive applause – not a response which has been particularly forthcoming in a season of home struggle.

As so often has been the case with Wanderers this season, a different side emerged for the second half.

Within a couple of minutes they were a goal behind – Grealish heading home a wicked in-swinging corner from Abraham.

And not long after that the pair changed roles, Grealish wriggling around Alnwick to pull a cross back for Abraham to head home his 25th of the season. The striker was injured in the process and walked, shoulder in sling, towards the touchline moments later.

Villa declared there. They had secured a ninth successive victory for the first time since 1910 and were able to shift into neutral in the closing stages.

As relegation was confirmed with the final whistle there were no great shows of dissatisfaction, no protests, no banners, just a hope things will improve – even if that means a step backwards to begin.

Parkinson does not know whether he will be in charge next season – and many believe he will not.

His CV as a League One manager is among the best in the business, however, and there are plenty – even among his tactical detractors – who will feel he deserves the chance to manage a club with some stability.

Bassini’s task is considerable. He is keen to repair the reputation of the club and, to a large extent, his own following a nightmarish time in charge at Watford.

Time will tell if he is successful but the folk of Bolton will be supportive, there is no question of that.

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