THERE’S no masking over Wanderers’ problems at left-back but Dougie Freedman has paid tribute to Tim Ream for bridging the gap while his search for a replacement continues.

After a loan move for West Brom’s Goran Popov collapsed on Wednesday, it appears Ream will again be asked to play out of position against Millwall tomorrow afternoon.

And while Freedman admits the situation is hardly ideal – and has meant breaking up a central defensive partnership with Matt Mills that had been going well – he has praised the American defender for playing through the pain of a broken nose amidst difficult circumstances.

“If I could have more Tim Ream’s I’d get them in right now, no doubt about it,” he told The Bolton News.

“Is he a natural left-back? Nope. But he’s doing a job for the team.

“The way football is right now you need players who can fill in more than one role and Tim is one of those players.

“We need more like him and even though he’s not a natural, he does give us a bit of balance.

“It does keep his qualities away from the middle and I think we’ve really missed his passing into midfield but he’s doing that job for his team-mates and being selfless about it.”

Wanderers were left frustrated by a Premier League ruling that blocked their efforts to bring in Macedonia international Popov in midweek.

The full-back, on loan for the season at the Hawthorns from Dynamo Kiev, was deemed by the authorities as an international transfer despite being a Baggies player to all intents and purposes.

Had the deal gone through it would have set a precedent – and Freedman admits that could have been a factor in the Premier League’s veto.

“We looked into the Goran Popov situation and had everything done but I need to be careful what I say because it broke down because of certain rules that weren’t in place. There were no actual rules.

“We had the player in, had the contract sorted, but it broke down on the paperwork.

“It seems to be the way things are going – everything seems to be against us – but I look at that as a huge challenge.

“If we can face up to this, make ourselves successful and not lie down and take it, then we’ll be okay.”

Wanderers have been without a regular left-back since Marc Tierney broke his leg in September.

Freedman has asked fans to be patient as he looks for cover but refuses to bring in players who he has not researched thoroughly.

“There’s no use whingeing,” he said. “Fans need to know what the situation is right now and we can’t go around splashing out money.

“The lad (Danny Fox) who went from Southampton to Nottingham Forest, if I told you the numbers involved in that deal you’d fall off your chair.

“I feel a responsibility for Eddie Davies’s money. Am I prepared to put this club at risk? No I am not.

“We’ve been unfortunate in that it was Marc Tierney who got that injury – anywhere else and we’d have covered it.

“Since then I’ve found a couple of left-backs who I feel are over-valued, and been offered a few that I don’t think are capable.

“Tim is a stand-in for the time being but I’m not going to take punts on people.

“I have got my targets and I’m willing to be patient for them.”