SOMETIMES all a team needs is a little tweak here or there, and Phil Parkinson’s tinkering paid terrific dividends against Birmingham.

Injured attacking pair Sammy Ameobi and Will Buckley were substitutes after Parkinson had given them every opportunity to feature in Wanderers’ second home fixture.

But although they were consigned to a watching brief early on, they would emerge as the heroes, Buckley getting the vital goal on a night when things never really seemed to click for the Whites.

Introduced on 62 minutes, most of which had been frustrating for Bolton and their followers, they combined to send Wanderers up to third, level on points with Leeds and Middlesbrough.

The Whites were, by all accounts, relishing their homecoming after difficult trips to in-form Leeds in the Carabou Cup and Parkinson’s old club, Reading. Those games produced different results but Wanderers had emerged from both with enormous credit.

Birmingham came into the fixture without a victory to their name in the league. But Parkinson would not have allowed any semblance of complacency to creep into his players’ heads, mindful of what the Blues were capable of. Most who saw the performance of Garry Monk’s side in their opening-day draw with Norwich, or the goalless draw at home to Swansea last Friday will have seen the threat they possess, not least with a front two of Omar Bogle and former Wanderer Lukas Jutkiewicz, who hit the only goal of the previous meeting during Bolton’s stuttering run-in last term.

Add in that Bolton had not managed a goal against Birmingham in five games – plus some 70 minutes or so – since Matt Mills’ winner in October 2014 and it was clear they had a stiff test ahead.

There had been concerns over Ameobi’s hip and Buckley’s thigh but while the former made his first appearance since the opening day, the latter had started against Reading. Yanic Wildschut and Gary O’Neil came into the starting XI while those turning out in numbers were excited to see what Erhun Oztumer would produce on his league debut.

In the stands for the game was the Whites’ former striker, Gary Madine. Having had just two minutes’ game time this season with Cardiff, one can only wonder what he made of the class of 2018/19.

He would surely have relished the service to the front more than Oztumer, who was forced to challenge for far too many long, high balls than any diminutive Turk should have to deal with.

Each team showed flashes of what they are capable of in a fast-paced opening but neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled. That was until midway through the half when Blues wideman Jota tried his luck.

The industrious Jason Lowe charged him down but his deflection did Alnwick no favours. Thankfully the keeper did manage to readjust to get a firm hand on the diverted effort, which would certainly have hit the net.

There was, however, very little from the Whites going forward. Assistant manager Steve Parkin had spoken of how little possession stats mean and, at times, it was as if the players were determined to show they could win while conceding the ball more times than is absolutely necessary.

Birmingham keeper Lee Camp was alarmingly unemployed in the first period with Wanderers unable to create anything of note, the closest being when Josh Magennis headed Pawel Olkowski’s free kick across the face of goal, Craig Noone unable to get a vital touch.

The Whites started the second period slowly but captain David Wheater was on his toes to snuff out the danger as Birmingham looked to sneak in and catch them napping.

There was at least something to keep Camp occupied 10 minutes into the second half, when a corner fell kindly for Jason Lowe. The midfielder is perhaps not the one the Whites would have wanted the opportunity to fall to but he made a good fist of drilling it goalwards, Camp reacting well to parry the shot.

The noise from the 13,000 in the stands increased in volume but more often than not they were groans as possession was continually squandered by their team. One such occasion presented the visitors with a dangerous opportunity, Maikel Kieftenbeld in acres of space sending the ball across for Omar Bogle, who glanced wide of Alnwick’s goal.

But with 17 minutes remaining, the substitutes had just the impact Parkinson was after. Both had been lively for the 10 minutes or so since coming on and Ameobi put a tempting ball across goal, with Buckley applying the vital touch to score.

Birmingham almost sealed their own fate as Kristian Pedersen forced a fine save out of his own keeper with a firm header, but in the closing stages it was frantic as the Whites defended manfully, finally seeing out a most welcome three points.