THE Impossible Dream is rapidly becoming an unavoidable nightmare for Keith Hill and his down-in-the-dumps Wanderers.

Back in August the manager’s straight-talking, brash persona reflected a club that was glad to be alive and – just maybe – ready to sock it to the establishment by overturning their points deficit and staying in League One against the odds.

By December that 12-point penalty had been overturned and despite some debilitating injury problems there was just enough evidence to suggest the dream was still on.

But since then the bold statements and analogies have started to antagonise the fanbase, and without results or performances to back up the manager’s claim that there will be a ‘brighter future’ it is becoming increasingly difficult for some supporters to guarantee they will be sat there again when it all starts again in May.

Defeat against Wycombe was the third in a week when the mood has been as grey as the skies. Wanderers have now taken just four points since the January window opened and the matchday 18 had 11 players brought to the club by Hill himself. Little wonder, then, that the manager’s accountability for the deteriorating season is now also being brought into question.

The mitigating circumstances for Hill and Wanderers’ under-performance are well documented and there is little dispute that this group has had some frightful luck with injuries, and the timing of the absences.

But the starting line-up on Saturday – which contained seven Hill signings – had enough experience to be avoiding the traps they are now persistently falling into. Fundamental flaws have now been exploited by Coventry, Doncaster and Wycombe in successive games.

Hill freely admitted a tactical tweak from his opposite number, Gareth Ainsworth, midway through the first half left his players scrabbling for answers on the pitch.

“I thought we started the game brightly but one small change seemed to affect the confidence of the players – no matter how many times I tried to work it out from the touchline it’s difficult to impose what needs to be done,” he said.

“It was obvious to me that they needed to stop the ball going through to our two strikers and when they did that it sort of confused our players. When someone stops you going through, you go round, but we didn’t get that right.”

Confused is not an adjective you want to see associated with your team, even one which has been assembled and re-assembled as many times as Bolton.

But having competed for most of the first half using a narrow 4-4-2, Wycombe’s decision to cut-off the supply line to target men Daryl Murphy and Chris O’Grady through the addition of an extra midfielder rather stopped the Whites in their tracks.

Murphy had gone close with one effort, pushed around the post by Ryan Allsop. Equally, the visitors had caused a few flutters with David Wheeler’s early header and a shot from lively QPR loanee Paul Smyth which went into the side netting.

Ethan Hamilton lined up a couple of efforts from distance for Bolton but Wycombe gradually levered the game in their direction, attacking both flanks with purpose. They should have had a penalty when Wheeler’s header struck Daryl Murphy’s arm – but referee Graham Salisbury waved away the Chairboys’ appeals.

Fred Onyedinma began to get the better of Josh Emmanuel, who picked up one yellow card and was already on his last warning before being taken off at half time.

The full-back’s final action was to pick the ball out of his own net, however, as after Brandon Fleming gave the ball away in midfield, Smyth surged into the box to bring a save out of Mathews and McCarthy lofted the ball back into the six yard box. Emmanuel tried to hook the ball away but his clearance bounced off Toto Nsiala and into his own net.

Some say that was Bolton’s season summed up in 10 seconds. More accurately, the defensive vulnerability which can be traced all the way back to Fleming’s indiscretion, is exactly why Wanderers fans have cause for complaint right now.

Hill made changes at the break, shifting Jason Lowe across to right-back and putting some pace up front in the form of Joe Dodoo. But while Lowe gave a typically committed performance, the attacking addition did not pay off one bit.

Bolton have made a habit of conceding before half time, the own goal their 11th of the season in the 14 minutes before the interval. The lapse in concentration had a visible impact on the players’ confidence and they played the second half as meekly as any I can remember this season.

The game ended as a contest when Nsiala let a long clearance bounce in front of him and man mountain Adebayo Akinfenwa wrestled space for Smyth to play Onyedinma though on goal. Matthews raced from his line and tripped the striker as he went around him.

Joe Jacobson, somewhat of a penalty king, did the job from the spot.

As the rain poured down, Bolton’s play became even more fragmented. Lowe noticeably tried to push his team forward from right-back but there was little direction from elsewhere.

Murphy had one effort saved by Allsop but Wycombe had the points in hand and wasted every second they could to choke the life out of the game.

Those fans who had stayed to the final whistle did not sound happy. Even the most optimistic who stepped into the stadium back in August knew this was a season that was likely to end in relegation but with still a third of the way to go, it seems a desolate prospect that this kind of performance could be played on repeat. It has simply got to be better than this.

If Wanderers could fashion a fast-forward button which whisked them immediately to the start of pre-season in July then Hill would press it in an instant. And there are still plenty around who feel he can only be adequately judged once he has had a full summer to prepare his players.

Keeping everyone – inside and outside the club – is not a simple task but if the events and headlines made this week have shown anything at all, it is the process should be easier than this.

Hill must motivate his players and staff but as the only real mouthpiece of the club right now, he also has to motivate the people who will be asked to part with their money this summer to watch League Two football.