IF any club should show some reverence for the FA Cup, it is Bolton Wanderers.

Sixty years ago Nat Lofthouse proudly lifted the trophy after victory over Manchester United, and 25 years later Bruce Rioch’s team ushered in the White Hot era with a scintillating triumph against holders Liverpool on their own Anfield turf. The competition has given Bolton fans unimaginable highs – four Wembley wins, giant-killings, magical late winners a la Chung-Yong Lee at St Andrew’s in 2011. It has also provided some depressing lows, not least that semi-final capitulation against Stoke City.

So how sad, then, that their most recent cup excursion against Premier League Huddersfield Town should have been such an emotionless exercise.

Just under 12,000 fans took advantage of reduced ticket prices on a chilly Macron afternoon yet the football on show for the first 45 minutes gave little encouragement to the creation of an atmosphere to warm things up. Only when the visitors seized a two-goal lead in two minutes after the break did a large travelling contingent momentarily emerge from slumber.

Wanderers kept themselves in the game thanks to Derik Osede’s header, giving brief hope they would then go for broke. Had they done so, Huddersfield did not appear to possess any great appetite to be in the fourth round draw, only that they wanted to avoid a replay.

The impassive nature of the game is no reflection on Phil Parkinson and his team, which contained six changes from the immeasurably more enjoyable win over Hull City six days earlier.

The Whites boss trialled a new adapted 4-4-2 formation, gave chances to the likes of Aaron Wilbraham, Mark Howard, Adam Le Fondre, Derik Osede and Fil Morais, and even found space to give Connor Hall a debut off the bench. His hand had been forced to some degree because of injuries to Darren Pratley and Karl Henry, plus the fact Adam Armstrong, Reece Burke and Josh Cullen had ended their loan.

At no stage did Bolton look out-classed and had Wilbraham finished a simple headed chance in the first half to give them a lead to protect, the whole day may have panned out differently.

What saddened me, and I’m sure anyone who grew up counting the days to the third round, was that the same story was unfolding all across the country. Wholesale changes, games played with one eye on next weekend, a general lack of enthusiasm from the people who really matter in the stands.

On the way out of the stadium, one supporter even berated Cardiff City for failing to beat Mansfield Town, which would have left the Whites with a free weekend at the end of January. Magic of the cup indeed.

“A lot of the changes I made were enforced but some of the lads who came in needed a game and they all equipped themselves well. We wanted to win, or at least get a draw,” said Parkinson after the game. “Taking a couple of minutes after half time out of the game there was nothing between the two teams. I think we acquitted ourselves very well.

“Being out of the cup is absolutely a negative in my mind. I wanted to get through.”

Wilbraham’s missed opportunity was the only highlight of a forgettable first half.

The experienced striker could have certainly used a goal to kick-start his Bolton career, which has primarily consisted of substitute cameos for Gary Madine – who was rested.

Huddersfield raced out of the traps in the second half, taking the lead through Rajiv van la Parra’s opportunistic near-post flick. The winger had come close to joining Bolton on loan a couple of years ago, only for then-manager Neil Lennon to be told there was no money to complete the deal.

Wanderers had cause for complaint when the Yorkshiremen doubled their lead just 90 seconds later. Abdelhamid Sabiri’s over-the-top challenge on David Wheater warranted a red card in the view of Phil Parkinson and left the Bolton defender nursing some nasty stud marks. Ref Roger East ignored the tackle and instead the ball popped out for Danny Williams to hit a heavily-deflected shot past Howard.

Derik was employed as a central midfielder alongside Josh Vela, demonstrating some of the versatility which could save his Bolton career. Earmarked for a move by chairman Ken Anderson over Christmas, the Spaniard chipped in with his second goal of the season on 64 minutes to show why he might be worth keeping around.

From there you desperately wanted Bolton to throw the kitchen sink at it. Huddersfield were not defending well from set pieces and had Parkinson’s side got themselves level, you would have back them to win.

But while the Whites huffed and puffed, threw Craig Noone, Jeff King and deserved debutant Hall into the mix, they failed to come up with anything particularly special.

In truth, Town should have put the game to bed, Williams putting one chance over the bar and Laurent Depoitre bringing a good late save out of Howard. Their wastefulness in front of goal summed up the sluggish mood.

Wanderers won't beat themselves up over defeat, and many will argue their priorities lie elsewhere but at a time when the club is looking to make new connections with the crowd, a cup run would have been worth its weight in gold.

Fans of a certain vintage will look back at FA Cup victories over Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Villa et al as the time they fell in love with Bolton Wanderers. This seemed like an opportunity which passed them by to earn another few fans for life.