FULL TIME: Wanderers 0 Leeds United 1
WANDERERS remained chained to the foot of the Championship table after a home defeat against Leeds confirmed their worst start to a league season for some 50 years.
Luke Varney’s sixth-minute header settled a tight game that did little to ease the growing dissatisfaction among Whites fans – aired in full at the final whistle.
And the fact that the team managed no shots on target over the course of 90 minutes is bound to come as cause for serious concern.
Freedman made four changes to his starting line-up, dropping Ty Mears, David Wheater, Medo Kamara and Jermaine Beckford and bringing in Marc Tierney, Matt Mills, Tim Ream and Chris Eagles.
Mills had not started a Championship game since December 2012 when he damaged a hamstring playing against Huddersfield Town and has been linked all summer with a move to Elland Road.
But the defensive reshuffle showed little in the way of results as Leeds seized the advantage after only six minutes.
Adam Bogdan’s poor punch forced Zat Knight into giving away a corner and when Luke Murphy swung the ball in right-footed, Luke Varney ghosted in past Alex Baptiste to head the ball home.
To their credit, Wanderers pushed hard to make amends. Eagles fired one effort from distance wide and David Ngog got the wrong side of his marker only to drag a shot from a narrow angle across goal.
The Frenchman then got on the end of Darren Pratley’s cross from the right but slipped at the crucial moment and ended up in a tangle six yards out.
Eagles and Chung-Yong started to become more of an influence and the pair created an opportunity for Pratley half an hour with which the midfielder should have tested keeper Paddy Kenny.
While the approach play looked good, the lack of a real cutting edge up front was all too apparent.
Leeds were content to try and hit on the break and nearly did just that on the half hour mark when Ross McCormack beat Tierney on the edge of the box and Noel Hunt slid a shot inches wide of Bogdan’s right-hand post.
On the stroke of half time they went even closer, this time after Ream’s poor touch on half way allowed McCormack to slip in Varney. The former Crewe man elected to shoot early and curled a shot just wide of the post.
The frustration continued on into the second half, with Leeds content to pick their moments to surge forward and Wanderers having little incision to match their superior possession.
That prompted Freedman to throw on ex-Leeds man Jermaine Beckford an hour in, but his choice of replacement was equally intriguing, with skipper Zat Knight pulled out of the back four to make way.
Eagles picked up the captain’s armband but his ‘reign’ would last only two minutes as he was soon replaced by Rob Hall, leaving Pratley to pick up the duties.
Wanderers were getting desperate by the midway point in the second half but Hall’s arrival at least provided a positive spark.
The young winger shouted for a penalty after feeling he was tripped by Stephen Warnock and moments later, Beckford found a near-post shot blocked by Scott Wooton.
A good chance then fell to Ngog with eight minutes remaining – Tierney’s cross laid off to his feet 10 yards out – but the striker squeezed a shot narrowly wide.
Pratley put a couple of late chances wide - including one in injury time that counted as his side's first on target all afternoon.
Only Millwall's heavy defeat against Derby - Wanderers' next opponents at the Reebok on Tuesday - keeps Bolton from being rock bottom.