BOLTON had an early finish for Christmas, but they were far from impressed at being left kicking their heels.

Visitors Aspatria made the 120-mile journey to Avenue Street, changed and handed in their team sheet to the match officials.

But, around half an hour before kick-off, the Cumbrians' captain decided the pitch was unfit for play. And with neither his opposite number, Rhys Pritchard, nor the referee unable to overrule, the match was called off.

To add insult to injury, Bolton's third XV managed to play their match on an adjacent pitch, where the Aspatria players then had a training session before boarding the team bus and heading home.

"The two captains have to agree to get the game on, the referee doesn't have a say in it, but they didn't want to play, which was really disappointing," said the Cherry and Whites' head coach, Dave Crouch.

"We were really annoyed, they had come all the way down and we were all ready to go then when the captains came together theirs said they didn't think the pitch was fit.

"Our pitches are very good, very flat and drain well. We've spent a lot of money on them, and the pitch next to the first-team pitch must have been okay, the thirds played on there with no problem. And they trained before they went home.

"I just think they probably didn't have a very strong team out."

The North Lancs/Cumbria division leaders' puzzling postponement decision means Bolton did not complete the first half of the season going into the Christmas break.

Currently 10th in the table, Crouch will hope they can build on many positives as they look for an improvement in their fortunes in 2018.

"We started the season very well," he told The Bolton News. "Then a few injuries came and some players being unavailable and we didn't get the results, but we've got it back together over the last three or four weeks – the win against Tarleton was a particularly good one.

"The players are committing themselves a bit more, they are in it for the love of the game and they're enjoying themselves in training and on match days, and so am I.

"I said I wanted us to improve week on week and I feel we're doing that with the players we've got, I can see the progression, which is good to see, especially in the younger players.

"And Rhys [Pritchard] is doing a great job as captain. He took over at the start of last season and with the extra responsibility his play has improved immensely too, that's why he has been picked for the Lancashire side."

The Aspatria match has been rearranged for February 24, but long before they can look to take their frustrations out on them, Crouch's men get back to action on January 6.

The new year starts with a short journey to Salford to take on a De La Salle side who were seen off 23-17 in September's reverse fixture.

January also brings home matches against Oldham and Hawcoat Park, either side of an away game at Littleborough, none of which should cause Crouch or his players any sleepless nights over Christmas.

"We're going in the right direction and we should have one or two more players to call upon when we get going again," added the coach.

"I'm pleased in general with how the club is performing, the seconds are doing well in Division Two North, the thirds are getting a great turnout whenever they're playing.

"We'll have a good break and look forward to the Della game. We want to put some good results together as the second half of the season gets going, and we don't think there's anything for us to fear."