HAD Thibauld Verlinden’s fourth-minute goal been decisive and Keith Hill’s assembled avengers emerged from battle at the New York Stadium with points in hand, a phone call from Hollywood would surely have been on its way.

The club which battled back from the brink, an eclectic cast of players plucked from far and wide on a frantic deadline day by a management team built in Bolton. The guttural roar from 2,600 travelling fans as the Belgian’s angled blast hit the roof of the net. Grab yourself some popcorn and let the projectors roll.

Unfortunately, this story arc is far from over. If Wanderers are to defy all expectations and escape relegation then this is just act two, the ordeal, and the heroes are yet to embark on the long road back to redemption.

Rotherham were merciless, impressively so, and racked up six goals that completely reflected their domination on the day. The size of Bolton’s task was put mechanically and efficiently into view by a team fitter, sharper and faster on the day.

Quoting his assistant, David Flitcroft, Keith Hill quipped that nobody remembers the start of a great film. Tell that to the poor girl swimming at the start of Jaws.

The manager’s analogy is understandable, though. In a little under a fortnight he has been asked to throw together a team of virtual strangers – and then cope with injuries to five of them, including a defender hurt in a car crash and the loss of both his main strikers – before taking on a team which will be challenging for the top six. If in May Wanderers have a shot of staying in League One, we won’t be talking about the errors which led to Freddie Ladapo and Carlton Morris filling their boots on Saturday.

How quickly this team can gel, and what ground will be conceded in the meantime is the unknown quantity right now. Even though there is a general acceptance among Bolton’s fans that this is a long-term project, not a single professional footballer enjoys being beaten by such distance and both Hill and Flitcroft will have their work cut out to keep morale up.

Without a pre-season a squad of players largely deemed surplus to requirement elsewhere are having to find match fitness on the hoof.

Throw in the fact they are also being asked to embrace an attacking brand of football not necessarily familiar to all, and there are bound to be teething problems.

Rotherham had not enjoyed the best start to the season, indeed there were murmurs before the game that a poor result could put pressure on manager Paul Warne. Their response to falling behind, however, was admirable. Inspired by the superb Rangers loanee, Jake Hastie, and the influential Ben Wiles, they blundered into a 3-1 half-time lead before adopting a more controlled approach in the second half.

On this evidence the Millers, nor their manager, should have any significant issues.

For a few golden moments between Hill doffing his flat cap to the Bolton fans 10 minutes before kick-off and Verlinden racing away to celebrate his first-ever professional goal, life was great again.

The goal was a little microcosm of the invention the new management team are trying to put into the team, a short corner, a cheeky backheel from Ali Crawford and Stoke City loanee Verlinden did the rest with a fierce shot from an acute angle to beat Daniel Iversen.

Had Wanderers held firm after the goal for 15 minutes or more the mood inside the stadium may have changed to provide a serious test of Rotherham’s mentality. Instead, the Millers went straight on the offensive, exploiting space around the two Bolton full-backs and flooding the box with crosses.

Adam Chicksen was signed as cover for the injured Joe Bunney and announced just an hour before kick-off. The former Bradford City man coped marginally better than Josh Emmanuel, who found a formidable nemesis in the unplayable Hastie.

After a couple of near misses, Wiles drew Rotherham level on 14 minutes. Ladapo and Morris then stretched the Millers’ lead before half time but not before Iversen made an important save from Verlinden, diverting a low shot from the winger around the post with his boot.

After a rusty start, Liam Bridcutt’s class had started to show in midfield. He was helped after Hill brought on the more defence-minded Jason Lowe for James Weir before the interval and was undoubtedly Wanderers’ best player on the day.

Verlinden showed some neat touches, while Crawford worked hard without the benefit of a physical presence to play-off. He and Dennis Politic would benefit considerably once Daryl Murphy or Chris O’Grady return to fitness.

Hill won’t have been too unhappy with his side’s first-half showing but the second 45 minutes showed up the conditioning and organisation that his players must now work on.

Rotherham sat deeper, controlled possession, and picked their moment. By the 65-minute mark they were six goals to the good as Ladapo and Morris added a second and Hastie scored the goal his performance more than warranted.

The small scoreboard above the massed ranks of Bolton fans started to look ominous with 25 minutes still to play but, thankfully, the record books were not challenged.

Wanderers’ ring-rust was clearly evident but now is not the time for a forensic examination, and with two home games in quick succession Hill will want to see more encouraging traits over the next 180 minutes of football, even if he cannot necessarily expect points.

The scoreline felt brutal. But then some films are hard to watch.

Bolton’s players looked crestfallen at the final whistle and gathered at a respectable distance on half-way from the supporters behind the goal. Hill cajoled every one of them to get closer, to pay a proper tribute, to his immense credit.

Hill is adamant there will be a happy ending. “Bolton Wanderers will be great again,” he said, in a theatrical post-match speech that contrasted dramatically with that of his predecessor, Phil Parkinson.

Whether he is right or not, we will find out in the final act. Wanderers fans might be watching through their fingers… but they will be watching in number, that much is certain.