WANDERERS had opportunities to put the result against Rochdale beyond doubt – but David Flitcroft reckons a lack of aggression in the penalty box proved their ultimate downfall.

On top in the first half and ahead on 56 minutes through Thibauld Verlinden’s header, Bolton looked to have their first victory of the season tantalisingly within reach at the UniBol.

But after Callum Camps equalised, Ollie Rathbone put the visitors ahead with a clinical counter-attack and Fabio Tavares put the points beyond doubt following an error in possession from Yoan Zouma.

Flitcroft refused to be downbeat, though he admitted a lack of belief in attack meant Wanderers failed to make their territorial advantage count in the opening hour of the game.

“I think it was spirited, we got the ball wide on the regain, but we didn’t really have the cutting edge we should have had in that first half,” he said.

“We overloaded the left-hand side, Thibault Verlinden’s side, but didn’t really attack the box with the aggression we want to see.

“Joe put the cross in second half, Thibault attacked it and he scored. He could have done that a touch sooner with another chance he had but it’s all about belief. We had enough penetration into the penalty box, go and attack it, but we didn’t have that last bit to finish the job off.

“At 1-0 we needed to take the game away from Rochdale. We didn’t manage to.”

Once ahead, Wanderers seemed to slow down. The introduction of Aaron Wilbraham – who had suffered an illness in the build-up to the game and started on the bench – switched momentum in the favour of Brian Barry-Murphy’s enterprising young side.

Wanderers lost the services of experienced defender Jack Hobbs to a back injury in the build up to the game, leaving an inexperienced partnership of Zouma and Adam Senior to cope.

“In the last 20 minutes of the game Sonny Graham had to come off with an ankle injury,” Flitcroft said. “Wilbraham came on and they dominated the two young centre halves – that’s a challenge and I hope they go and learn from that.

“I think overall they did well. You have Zouma’s exuberance, going to try and play out from the back and we’re not going to stop that, but it’s a little bit of naivety to step in and leave the pitch wide open.

“The kids kept going and we didn’t really give them a sniff for the first 70 minutes but you could see us tiring and conceding space. They took full advantage of that.”

Rathbone’s strike proved decisive, coming just moments after Daryl Murphy had a shot blocked on the line by Eoghan O’Connell and Adam Chicksen saw a follow-up shot saved by ex-Bolton keeper Jay Lynch, making his league debut.

Flitcroft refused to go overboard with the criticism and says there was plenty for him and Keith Hill to take from the game.

“We have to regroup better,” he said. “Yes, it is a good chance, but we didn’t score so we have to make sure that we are more compact and resolute.

“We’ll support those two young kids in there, give them tools to learn, and they are doing it on a difficult stage in front of your own fans. But we’ll give them all the support they need.

“For 80 per cent of today I’d find positive things to talk about. We’ve gone toe-to-toe with a dynamic team but we didn’t have the legs in the end to go all the way.

“We need to get to the stage in our season where we are scoring a goal and taking the game away from them. We’re not there yet. I am not going to stand here and lie to anyone, saying we are.

“Over an amount of time we’ll get to that point, getting the energy to take the team on again, get to the point where you put the points beyond doubt. We will get there with this group of players.”