KEITH Hill says he was only able to start enjoying Tuesday night’s game against Manchester City’s Under-21s once his players got on message.

Full of admiration for the young Blues, who dominated much of the first half before Chris O’Grady’s double finally wrestled control of the game, the Bolton boss was clearly disappointed with aspects of what he witnessed from his own side at the UniBol.

Midfielder James Weir was hooked before half time and defender Yoan Zouma also came in for critical words, the manager demanding better discipline from the Frenchman if he wishes to become a first team regular.

Hill planned to use the match as a “training session” and had pre-planned to withdraw striker Daryl Murphy at half time to save him for this weekend’s home game against Fleetwood.

But until the desired intensity materialised after half time, the Wanderers boss admitted his experienced players were schooled by the teenagers for longer than he would have liked.

“It’s evident that they have got some really good young players who play the right way but it’s difficult when it’s a technical game like that, the concentration required,” he said.

“If you don’t press and try to force errors against Manchester City they can walk up the pitch and they have every pass in the book. The goalkeeper, for example, is an outfield player. He almost takes the centre forward on.

“I love the way they play. I wanted to use it as a training exercise to try and get three points in the Trophy but also to see, again, what I have got to work with.”

Jason Lowe was moved to centre half to guide Zouma through the game but Hill could face a big call on whether to do the same on Saturday, with Josh Earl unavailable because of a torn thigh muscle.

Youngsters Adam Senior and Jordan Boon could also be drafted into a back four who will have to cope with one of the division’s most dangerous front lines in Paddy Madden and Ched Evans.

Hill’s chief complaints on the night centred on his team’s use of the ball and the relative lack of shape at times when they lost possession.

“I was enjoying the way Manchester City played,” the manager said. “It wasn’t a lack of commitment, the players wanted to be out there but I think they wanted to play it on their terms rather than my terms, which are getting after an opponent and forcing errors. When you get those turnovers we can grow into the game.

“Five-pass combinations – how many did we have in the first half? Probably none. It forces them on to the back foot and allows us to build. We become better tactically because we are better technically.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand how the game plays. Your tactics work if you are in possession, so the more you keep the ball rolling, five-pass combinations, the more chance you have of defending on turnovers.

“I could talk all day about the way I want to play but you may as well re-run that video and watch Manchester City.”

In the end, O’Grady’s two goals were the difference. Hill hinted he could use the experienced striker in a different position against Fleetwood after losing Ali Crawford to injury late in the game.

But the Wanderers boss allayed any fears that Daryl Murphy had joined the injured list, the Irishman fit to play this weekend.

“It was always my plan to play Daryl for 45 minutes. He needs the games but anything more than 45 would have put him at risk, whereas the others are getting there.

“I trust Chris, he works hard, he poses a threat through the middle or out wide. And well done to him because it is important for strikers to get off the mark.”