After our rain-sodden, fuel-busting trip to South-east London to watch the Wanderers’ superb second half thrashing of the Addicks at the Valley, it was back to home territory to face the Shrews and to welcome back the legend that is Aaron Wilbraham, albeit in the opposition’s dugout as assistant manager these days. Thankfully, there was room to squeeze into the Harvester, where the introduction of two-pint glasses greatly helped the queues. After last Saturday’s performance at Sunderland and Tuesday’s brilliant result, there is a growing belief and excitement that we can cut it at this level. Sadly, we learnt of the loss of two former Bolton favourites this week, Roger Hunt and my first Wanderers hero, Freddie Hill, who could beat opposition defenders on a sixpence. My older brothers spent many hours having a kick around with Freddie on the playing fields in Darcy Lever, where he lived when he first came to Bolton.
Ian Evatt stuck with his team from midweek but with the welcome return of Amadou Bakayoko and Lloyd Isgrove on the bench. In the first half, we carried on from Tuesday night in confident mood and went two up with superb strikes from Antoni Sarcevic and Dapo Afolayan. Disappointingly, we lost momentum in the second half and nearly allowed Shrewsbury Town to come back into it. But for Joel Dixon’s penalty save, we might have dropped points by the end of the match. Neither the fans or the manager and players could have been happy with our second half performance. But it is another three points in the bag, and we are comfortably in the top half of League 1, arguably playing the most watchable football for many years. I have lost count of the number of fans who have told me that they are happy to watch the Wanderers again as we have established an identity to our football, a Wanderers way of playing.
We are moving in the right direction as the nightmares from the Dark ages begin to recede. It will not be a smooth passage back to better times as there will be challenges to be faced and setbacks to be overcome. League 1 is taking its time to settle down this season with goals aplenty and unpredictable results abound. We have proved that we are capable of mixing it with the best, but we need to keep the hard work going.