BOLTON’S imperious home form was dented by a narrow defeat to Aldwinians on Saturday, leaving head coach Dave Crouch having to console on of his rising stars, Joe Speakman.

The Cherry and Whites fell to an 18-17 loss against the side from Audenshaw, after the young half-back, playing on the left wing, was unable to make a last-gasp conversion attempt.

Nailing that kick would have given the hosts victory and extended their perfect record at Avenue Street in the cup and the North Lancs/Cumbria division.

“Poor Joe couldn’t make that kick but it was a difficult one, about 10 metres in from the touchline, and in the conditions the game had been played in, it really was a tough one to make,” said Crouch.

“He was quite upset afterwards but I had to tell him not to worry about it, no one in the team or on the sidelines was blaming him, we win as a team and lose as a team. It is a team game, after all.

“He played well in the game anyway, he kicked four penalties, he just couldn’t make that last conversion, he was quite distraught but it certainly wasn’t his fault we lost, I’m really pleased with the way he is progressing.

“He’ll start at 10 on Saturday, I hope he’ll play with confidence because we have confidence in him.”

Speakman’s boot had been responsible for three successful penalties early in the game as Bolton established a 9-0 lead within the first 10 minutes.

But Aldwinians led 10-9 at half time, thanks to a converted try and a penalty of their own.

A penalty for each team – Speakman sending Bolton’s through the posts – took the score to 13-12, and a second try for the visitors stretched their lead to six points at 18-12.

In the dying moments of a match played in howling winds and driving rain, Bolton centre Alex Waddicor went over for a try to close the gap back to a point, and set up Speakman’s conversion attempt.

“We should have won the game without that kick,” added Crouch. “We had chances but didn’t put them away. Aldwinians were very tight and supported their runners well, while we tried tackling round the shoulders, rather than the legs.

“It was an awful day too, when the rain is just about parallel to the field it doesn’t make for easy handling of the ball.

“We weren’t at our best but should still have won. Everyone in the division is losing games they would be expected to win, though, there is no clear leader and it’s wide open with a lot of games to play.”

This Saturday Bolton travel to Burnley, a club formed by the recent merging of Colne and Nelson and who won promotion last term.

They will, however, be hampered by absences totalling half a team, with Manny Tailor, Ryan

McClusky, Nick Sandbrook, Niall Murphy, Andrew Wood, James Singleton and Lewis Lockett all missing.

There was good news at Avenue Street this week, however, as first XV captain Rhys Pritchard, vice-captain Louis Critchlow and winger/full-back Jonny Stanfield were all invited to attend trials for the Lancashire Royals representative side.

After impressing in the try-outs, utility back Pritchard, a Bolton player for more than a decade, made the squad.