WANDERERS faced their biggest pre-season test yet in a Stockport County side still brimming with confidence after promotion from the National League.

They maintained an unbeaten start thanks to second-half goals from Elias Kachunga and Conor Bradley, cancelling out Will Collar’s opener on the hour, but a third straight win of the summer was denied thanks to a fine finish from Miles Hippolyte 15 minutes before the end.

Ian Evatt conceded that the game had been a mixed bag – aspects on which he was pleased, and others that required more work on the training ground.

Here are five talking points we spotted in 90 minutes at Carrington which might well occupy the manager’s thoughts over the next few days.


Kieran Sadlier came to Bolton’s rescue at the end of last season as a right wing-back following an injury to Marlon Fossey – and that is where he has found himself once again in pre-season.

While the former Rotherham United man can play the role, even admitting back in April that he had grown to enjoy it, you cannot help but think his attacking instincts are not being fully utilised.

With Conor Bradley looking in good form on his arrival from Liverpool, Sadlier will not want to be viewed as a back-up, yet in the system Wanderers have used in their first three friendlies it is hard to see where he slots in further forward.

With tougher opposition to come in the next few weeks, will Sadlier get a chance to shine as a number 10 and show he can claim a starting spot in the side against Ipswich Town?


The signing of Jack Iredale has added some heavy competition to the left side of Wanderers’ defence and based on Johnston’s first few games in pre-season he has risen to the challenge.

The former Liverpool defender came back to the training ground with extra muscle and seemingly with extra motivation to hold on to his place in the side, which was almost a given for most of last season.

Johnston’s distribution has always been his strong point and his pass to find Conor Bradley for the second goal was inch-perfect.

He was Bolton’s most effective player for the last half and hour, defending well on the edge of his own penalty box too.

As Iredale still nails down some of the finer tactical points of playing left-sided centre half in this system, Johnston has shown that he will not be handing his shirt over lightly.


Dion Charles was the man who caught the eye in the first hour – not only for the busy, hassling style of which we have become accustomed since his January move from Accrington, but also his ability to drop short and link-up play from midfield.

He had scored four goals in his first two starts this summer but against Stockport he took up some intelligent positions just off Amadou Bakayoko and got his strike partner a couple of very good scoring opportunities as a result.

It is not easy to call which of Evatt’s attacking options will start the season against Ipswich – but on current form Charles looks like he has one boot on the Portman Road pitch.


The workload this summer at Wanderers has been considerable – and even some of the more experienced players have let it be known that Ian Evatt and his backroom staff have demanded a lot over the last few weeks.

Pushing the players hard on the training ground can sometimes take the edge off performances in friendly games, and there were mistakes creeping in against Stockport that one hopes will not be made when the real action starts at the end of the month.

Whereas physical fatigue may account for some of the errors in possession at the start of the second half there were also moments of sloppiness from those who played the last half hour. Wanderers struggled to move the ball in their own half, passes were not as snappy nor accurate, and they are the things which must be tightened up before the results really matter.


From what we have seen thus far of Conor Bradley, it is hard not to be excited about what is in store this season.

His link-up play with Gethin Jones and Aaron Morley against Longridge and Chorley was encouraging – but how about that composed finish for the second goal against Stockport?

The youngster has adapted well to life on loan outside Anfield, already throwing himself into Bolton Wanderers in the Community’s excellent work and visiting their Fit Trotters session last week to speak with participants.

Ticking boxes on and off the pitch, Bradley is getting rave reviews.