The Blancos are in the ninth cloud with targets flowing in Longridge

Had they imagined it, Wanderers could have stayed in Portugal to play for Monaco in the Lagos sun, rather than Longridge in the gray Lancashire skies.

The French club had asked Ian Evatt’s men if they fancy a friendly match instead of returning to the UK on Sunday – but, unfortunately, the promise has already been fulfilled.

Twelve months ago, Bolton fans watched their team live for the first time after the pandemic, and many are still struggling to recognize the faces they saw winning promotion from behind their laptop and TV screens the previous season.

This time the men in white were more familiar. They were clearly enjoying themselves, even if they were wondering if they had learned more about themselves in the Algarve sun.

First-half goals from Kyle Dempsey, Elias Kachunga and Amadou Bakayoko were added in the second half with a Dion Charles hat-trick and other attacks from George Johnston, John Daddy Budvarsson and Dabo Avolayan.

The flight was delayed for a few minutes to allow the meandering queues to die out in the parking lot, and it was clear that few people had seen the clouds falling over Ripple Valley.

The benefit was understandable. This was a pre-season friendly – but there will be no speculation about the identity of the contestants, as is the case with these games. With the exception of MJ Williams, who took a slight hit, every decent member of Evatt’s squad was on display at the Recycling Lives Ground.

But for some late challenges in the first 10 minutes, Wanderers had things their own way in the entire first half.

Jacques Iridal started his first game with a Bolton shirt – and the new design also made his debut. The Australian played on the left side of the three defenders and moved the ball sharply, playing a big role in each of the first two goals.

The traveler looked at the point. They’ve been out for just over a week in Portugal, getting nearly four times more contact time in training than they could get at this point last year.

The breakthrough came 11 minutes later, as Bakayoko’s sparkling shot from Iridal sent Dempsey into goal, and although the midfielder did not handle his shot well, it was enough to beat former Bolton player James Aspinal.

He may have been fired by the one who ran away, then Aspinal fought a one-on-one fight with Bolton’s front line to avoid the second goal.

He made a double clever save from Kachunga and then Kieran Sadlier, making it a hat-trick moments later when the corner hit Dempsey near the penalty spot.

It looks like Max Conway might be the next young domestic talent to watch for the Wanderers, and he nearly stole the show with a blunt left-wing effort — and the warring Aspinall pushed him back in.

Bolton was getting a lot of joy on the left, and when Iridal chose to sprint from Kachunga, Dempsey sent his cross home.

Kieran Lee had been making his debut since February, barely losing any rhythm as he sewed things together in midfield. And it was his ball that found Bakayoko for the best goal of the half.

Baca was away from Sierra Leone over the summer and there were no signs of rust as he picked his place from 12 yards, giving Aspinal absolutely no chance.

Conor Bradley came on as part of the second half changes, and the loaned Liverpool player wasted no time at all dedicating himself to his new teammates.

Streaming over left-back Longridge, he grabbed the ball and slid a pass in to carve Dion Charles into the bottom corner of the edge of the penalty area.

Moments later, he was racing inside the penalty area again, this time on a heavyweight ball from Aaron Morley, passing a cross for Charles to finish at the near post.

Johnston looted Morley’s cross at home to continue going one-way, when Charles completed a hat-trick after George Thomason was pushed into the penalty area.

Podvarsson almost scored the eighth goal after his shot went into the goalkeeper’s fist, and Avolayan completed the defeat with a trademark angle from the edge of the penalty area.

First Half Team: Dixon. Aimson, Saints, Iredale; Sad, Toot, Dempsey, Lee, Conway; Your brothers, Kachunga.

Second half team: Trafford, Bradley, Jones, Senior, Johnston, John, Morley, Thomasson, Avolayan, Charles, Budvarson.

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