GARY Cahill made his eagerly-awaited return to competitive action when he came through 90 minutes for the reserves against Manchester City at the Reebok last night.

The defender has not played since being diagnosed with a blood clot in his arm before Wanderers game with Fulham on February 6.

Cahill, an unused substitute against Everton at the weekend, needed an operation to remove a small piece of rib which was restricting his blood flow.

Owen Coyle, watching from the stands, will have been delighted to see the 25-year-old England hopeful back in action.

But he would have been less impressed with Cahill’s part in City’s opening goal. The centre-half played himself into trouble before compounding his error by handling the ball. From the resulting free-kick, Ben Mee fired the second-placed visitors into a 20th-minute lead. Ali Al-Habsi, Danny Shittu, Mark Davies and Mustapha Riga were all given a chance to impress Coyle in a strong Bolton second string in the Barclays Premier League Reserve North clash.

But it was Ricardo Vaz Te who will have caught the Wanderers manager’s eye with a 35th-minute equaliser — the Portugese striker’s fourth goal in three games for the reserves.

Alex Nimley struck a post a minute after the restart but he handed City the points when he volleyed home Kieran Trippier’s cross on the hour before Robert Mak sealed the win with a fine third late on.

Wanderers: Al-Habsi, Riley (McDonald 19), Blakeman, Sheridan, Cahill, Shittu, Mooy, M Davies, Vaz Te, Riga, O’Halloran (Harsanyi 75). Subs not used: Lainton, Bennett, Campbell.

Manchester City: Gonzalez, Vidal, Cunnigham, Ibrahim (Kay 86), Boyata, Mee, Trippier, Tutte, Nimely, Mak, Poole (Ball 78). Subs not used: Johansen, Chantler, Redshaw.