IT is hard to recall a more satisfying sound than the dull thud of boot against ball as Eoin Doyle blasted Wanderers into a first-half lead at Atherton Colls.

That it could be heard so clearly in an empty ground is desperately sad. It was a moment that deserved to be cheered by shirt-sleeved fans, beer in hand, who have sat for 144 days and counting to see their team out on the pitch again.

If, though, in a year’s time we can look back and declare that one whip of a right foot was the start of something special, a truly fresh start under new head coach Ian Evatt, then the wait might just have been worth it.

It says a lot about the topsy-turvy world in which we live that as Bolton took a first step towards the 2020/21 season, Arsenal and Chelsea had yet to kick off in the FA Cup final, marking the end of the 2019/20 domestic campaign.

Though we have been repeatedly told that ‘football is back’ for the last few months as Premier League was piped into the TV screens beyond saturation point, for Wanderers supporters it continues to be a long and tortuous wait.

Here, there were a few satisfying morsels of evidence which suggests when football really does return to the University of Bolton Stadium, it will be well worth watching.

Under a constant commentary from the dugout, where Evatt and assistant Peter Atherton barked out orders to show composure in possession, Bolton did just enough to warrant their first-half lead.

New addition Liam Gordon was a constant outlet on the left and though his positioning may still need some work, his pace and willingness to attack the full-back was a welcome sign indeed.

Evatt described the former Dagenham man as a ‘hybrid’ – a mix of defender and winger – and just a few hours after his signing was officially announced it was clear he had come fully charged.

At the back, George Taft looked a commanding presence, showing a couple of nice touches on the ball which show why he was one of the top defensive targets this summer. Ryan Delaney – who had finished last season off in good form – will also be pleased with his first 45 minutes of the summer.

Brandon Comley and George Thomasson worked hard in front of the back three, allowing Ali Crawford to find gaps and use the craft which was so sorely missing during his time on the side-lines last year. We were nearly treated to one of his set-piece specials, too, with Atherton Colls’ keeper tipping one effort impressively over the bar.

Brad Cooke’s Colls were no bystanders. They hit the woodwork just before Doyle edged Wanderers ahead and played their part in what was a thoroughly entertaining game.

Colls continued to play football despite going behind. And with a few better decisions in possession they may have made Bolton pay after turning over possession a few times either side of half time.

Evatt will have noted his team looked slightly susceptible on the turnover, although you would expect that to be remedied with more work on team shape on the training ground.

Half time saw a complete change around for Wanderers, and Matt Alexander had to stay sharp to cope with a spell of pressure from the home side immediately after the break.

After things settled, Ronan Darcy should have made it two after one botched clearance left the Colls keeper unintentionally socially distanced from his own goal. Instead, the youngster looked to play in Muhammadu Faal and the opportunity was snuffed out.

Dennis Politic moved into a more central position midway through the second half which helped Wanderers step up a gear. This time last year the 20-year-old had yet to make his first team debut for the Whites, yet after making so much progress last season he faces another challenge to show he can evolve beyond an orthodox winger and find a niche in Evatt’s new-look system.

Wanderers were keen to keep the Colls game out of the public eye, allowing the head coach to take a better look at some of the trial players who had trained with the club in the last fortnight, away from the prying eyes of rival clubs.

Some had already been reported, including returning defender Alex Baptiste who turned creator for another trialist to crash home an impressive second goal with 20 minutes to go.

Politic then made it three, shifting the ball deftly on to his left foot on the edge of the box before drilling home another fine finish in the final stages.

It had been a pleasing afternoon’s work for Wanderers, whose only minor disappointment was that Tom White jogged off in the final 10 minutes with what looked like a minor injury.

Evatt’s feet were fixed firmly to the floor. He wants to use every day of an extended pre-season to ensure his players are in peak physical condition, one of the key requirements in the ambitious and expansive brand of football he is looking to implement.

But there is clearly work to do, and with “five or six” friendly games now planned before September 12 the Whites head coach will be looking to gradually sharpen his side’s tactical make-up to ensure they can hit the ground running in League Two.

Wanderers will want to ensure that if supporters are back in the ground by October, that they get their money’s worth. And on first view, this wasn’t a bad start.