After a brief introduction to Bolton Wanderers and their current plight in Part 1, it was now time to lead the club into its second-ever season in the fourth tier of English football.
My reign as Bolton boss began with a Carabao Cup game at local rivals Rochdale. A dull first half looked to have us going in at 0-0, but Eoin Doyle latched onto a pass from centere-back George Taft and coolly slotted home. 20 minutes into the half, one of our throw-in routines worked a treat and left wing-back Gethin Jones tapped home, then three minutes later Doyle doubled his tally from a delicious Ronan Darcy through ball. A dream debut for Doyle and a great start for us!
We faced Forest in the second round, took them to penalties and were really unlucky to lose 6-5.
Life in League Two begins
We opened up our league campaign in the fourth tier of English football at home to Forest Green Rovers. We started on the front foot with 10 shots inside the first 20 minutes and made it count as Darcy broke up an attack, then launched a counter that ended with midfielder Brandon Comley crossing for right wing-back Peter Kioso to smash an outstanding volley into the top corner. The rest of the game was quiet as we began League Two with a 1-0 win.
However, we then managed to leak three goals from just eight shots at Colchester, before Doyle scored another brace in the last five minutes to narrow the loss to 3-2. Next was real-life leaders Newport County, against whom we didn’t do much but that man Doyle stepped up to convert from a Antoni Sarcevic through-pass on 21 minutes then wrapped up the win with a header from sub right wing-back Jak Hickman on 80 minutes.
Doyle was at it again as we visited leaders Harrogate Town, scoring with our first shot on six minutes. The holders bounced back with a direct free-kick then a screamer just before half-time. But Doyle bagged another three minutes after the break and we nicked it with a third goal from just five shots as Kioso finished off a lovely move on 70 minutes. A 3-2 win and eight goals in four league games for Doyle!
While all that was going on, another promising youngster Finlay Hurford-Lockett picked up a cruciate ligament injury that ruled him out for up to 10 months – with Politic already out for 17 months. In other youngster news, exciting striker Bright Amoateng scored twice on his debut in the pointless cup while midfielder Matthew Tweedley became Bolton’s youngster ever goalscorer aged 16 years and 173 days.
We then found goals hard to come with 0-0 draws at home to Grimsby and at Cambridge and 1-0 wins at home to Oldham Athletic and at Barrow, then a 1-1 draw at home to Bradford. In short, we were creating next to nothing and my players were knackered for every game. But we were back in the goals as we scored three from just seven shots, including a fifth brace for Doyle, in winning 3-1 at Leyton Orient. This took us to eight games unbeaten and second in the league, and saw me win manager of the month for October.
We went top of League Two for the first time as yet another Doyle brace sealed a 3-2 win over Mansfield, who scored both of their shots on target. A draw and first loss in 10 games followed, then we beat before being aired on TV at home to Port Vale. And with the cameras in town we put in one of our best performances with a 3-0 win led by a Nathan Delfouneso brace.
A draw at Cheltenham, who were fourth in the league, followed, then Delfouneso scored two more as we defeated struggling Tranmere 2-0. That took us into the holiday fixtures, which began at Carlisle who scored twice from four shots and two punts over the top, which were cancelled out by Doyle bagging another brace!
A knackered side struggled to a 0-0 with Morecambe. Then we began 2021 conceded to Crawley’s first shot of the match – standard. But we recovered with Doyle bagging yet another brace along with goals from Delfouneso and Lloyd Isgrove’s first for the club. I then had no choice but to rotate for a game at Exeter, which we shockingly lost 3-0.
And that’s where we’ll leave it for now because the next episode will feature a huge game as Bolton Wanderers travel to Chelsea in the FA Cup third round!
After 23 games, we’re third in League Two just three points off top of the league Bradford. Doyle is the league’s top scorer with 17 goals and has 21 in 26 in all competitions, including scoring twice eight times!
Join us next time as we take on Chelsea and push on into the second half of our first season with Bolton Wanderers!