The last time Aaron Wilbraham took to the pitch at the University of Bolton stadium was on the fateful day in 2018 when his last-gasp header secured Wanderers‘ status in the Championship for one more year.
That was until the weekend’s clash with Rochdale when the former Wanderers striker came on and completely changed the face of the game.
For the first hour of the match, Bolton and its inexperienced defence looked reasonably comfortable, with little threat coming the way of Yoan Zouma and Adam Senior.
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That was until Bolton scored on 56 minutes and Rochdale felt the need for change was urgent bringing on Wilbraham.
From the moment he came on, Wilbraham was already more than the two inexperienced defenders could handle. The towering striker, who turned 40 today, won every header and created so many problems for Wanderers that the game turned on its head.
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The pairing of Adam Senior and Yoan Zouma had looked confident in their defensive abilities for the most part until Wilbraham came on and made the pair look like deer caught in the headlights.
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Wanderers didn’t help themselves on Saturday as the expectations for the first win under Keith Hill rose to their highest levels of the season.
After Verlinden’s goal made that win seem even more possible, it appeared that Bolton took their foot off the gas, even if only for a moment, and the looming figure of Aaron Wilbraham coming off the bench, to a warm reception from Bolton’s fans, saw an opportunity.
The way in which Wilbraham changed the game after coming on at around the hour-mark just showed how much Wanderers were missing the experienced heads of Jack Hobbs and Jake Wright in defence.