PHIL Parkinson has rigorously defended his decision to withdraw teenager Luca Connell in the second half of Wanderers’ 1-1 draw with Reading on Tuesday night.

The Bolton boss drew a furious reaction from home fans when he brought off the midfielder for Joe Pritchard with 18 minutes left on the clock, and the game still goalless.

Parkinson admits he was “shocked” by the sudden change of mood around the stadium, which worsened four minutes later when Nelson Oliveira scored from the penalty spot to hand the visitors a lead.

Jack Hobbs’ injury-time header earned a point in the end for Wanderers, who have now won just one of their last 19 league games.

The goal may have spared an even more acerbic reaction on the final whistle but Parkinson stood his ground in the post-match press conference, insisting he was right not to risk the youngster’s fitness by keeping him on the pitch to the end.

“It’s frustrating because it’s so obvious that a young kid who’s only 17 on 65-70 minutes is fatiguing, and we don’t want to get him injured,” he said.

“What can I say? I have been a supporter myself, stood on terraces and I like to think I have got an understanding of what is going on out on the pitch.

“It’s frustrating because our supporters have been great for us, they really have, home and away.

“I am honestly shocked and I am not bothered about the fans having a go at me. But the atmosphere created on the pitch for the players – their team – in such a great game.

“But not only that, I put another young kid on and young Joe has been terrific for us and yet he’s had to play in that kind of atmosphere. It is only the character of a proper team that got us back into the game."

Connell had made his debut in the FA Cup at Bristol City last Friday and Parkinson claims it was a touch-and-go decision to start him against Reading.

But after withdrawing the midfielder for the closing stages and sending on Pritchard – who had also made his first full start in the cup the previous week – Parkinson was surprised by the ferocity of the crowd’s response.

“I thought Joe would get a fantastic reaction when he came on,” he said.

“I think it was an absolutely nailed-on decision because he’s a young kid. Surely the last thing our supporters want me to do is get one of our kids injured?

“The demands of Championship football compared to the Under-18s and playing in the FA Youth Cup… it is a million miles away.

“He did great on Friday and we looked at him in training and wondered ‘do we play him?’ He still looked a bit leggy. He had another day of rest and we decided he could play.”