Harrogate Town 1 Bolton Wanderers 2: Simon Weaver left to rue lack of cutting edge
Simon Weaver was left to rue a lack of cutting edge as Bolton Wanderers condemned his Harrogate Town side to their first League Two defeat since promotion to the EFL.
The Wetherby Road outfit saw plenty of the ball during an absorbing contest and worked a number of promising attacking opportunities, but ultimately did not do enough to make up for two poor goals which they gave away at the other end.
"That's probably the best we've played in between the boxes this season. We dominated the second half, were probing away, but with all the balls and deliveries into the box, we need to be more of a threat," the Harrogate boss reflected.
"It's disappointing because we left ourselves with a mountain to climb but we still had plenty of time. There wasn't too much to do, however with that lack of danger in the box, that did prove to be the case in the end.
"It never looked like someone was going to get in front of a defender. We keep saying it, we need to be better between the posts and step up to the plate.
"I've said to the players in training 'someone stand out as a goalscorer, please' but we lacked that real edge and someone desperate to score goals.
"For all the good play we need to score goals. There were some great moves but we don't want to be entertaining and putting great balls into the box and there's nobody on the end of them. That will make us tedious and a mid-table team at best."
Weaver had said pre-match that he wanted to see more control from his players in possession and avoid the contest developing into another "basketball game", yet that is exactly what happened during the opening 20 minutes.
Bolton looked particularly lively going forwards, though it was Town who threatened first, George Thomson and Aaron Martin going close with headers before the latter nodded a ninth-minute opportunity against an upright from Ryan Fallowfield's centre.
Two minutes later, the hosts did however find themselves behind following a loose piece of defending at a set-piece.
Eoin Doyle scored 26 goals in League Two last season, though it is unlikely that any of them will have come easier than the one which broke the deadlock at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Ali Crawford delivered a right-wing corner to the near post where the Trotters number nine was able to meet the ball unmarked and finish first-time.
Things almost got worse for Harrogate shortly afterwards as Doyle came in off the left and managed to take ball past Connor Hall, then Will Smith, before slotting beyond James Belshaw, only for the sliding Dan Jones to come to his side's rescue with a superb goal-saving block.
Harrogate looked at their most dangerous down their right, where Fallowfield and Thomson combined to good effect throughout the opening period, but it was from an attack on the opposite flank that almost produced a leveller on 27 minutes.
Jones slid the ball into the feet of debutant Calvin Miller, who found a little bit of space inside the box and drilled a stinging effort across the face of goal with his left foot, drawing a good save from Billy Crellin.
That would be as close as Town would come before half-time, though Josh Falkingham did see what looked a decent shout for a penalty turned down by referee Benjamin Speedie.
Harrogate began the second period with more purpose about their play and Falkingham's excellent cross from the right picked out Martin at the far post, though his attempted finish was wayward.
Bolton then countered to devastating effect from a Jones throw-in, Doyle sending Nathan Delfouenso through on goal to beat Belshaw one-on-one with 56 minutes on the clock.
Town wasted no time feeling sorry for themselves and they were back in the contest just after the hour-mark, Miller racing down the left towards the byline and delivering an excellent low cut-back, which Thomson clinically dispatched into the bottom corner.
From that point onwards, the contest became a game of attack versus defence, with the visitors struggling to get out of their own half and seemingly happy just to defend their own 18-yard-box.
Harrogate passed the ball nicely, displaying real intent and engineering some promising situations, but without ever really looking like making a breakthrough.
Indeed it was at the other end where a fourth goal almost arrived, Antoni Sarcevic forcing Belshaw into a save with a swerving effort during a rare Bolton foray forwards.
Town continued to probe away until the final whistle, but on this occasion, it was not to be their day.
Harrogate Town: Belshaw; Fallowfield, Smith, Hall, D Jones; Thomson, Falkingham, Kirby, Miller (Walker 69); Martin (Kiernan 55), Beck (Stead 75). Unused substitutes: Cracknell, Burrell, Kerry.
Bolton Wanderers: Crellin; Brockbank, Santos, Delaney; G Jones (Hickman 42), Crawford, Sarcevic, Tutte (Comley 76), Mascoll (Gordon 71); Doyle, Delfouneso. Unused substitutes: Taft, White, Darcy, Gnahoua.
Referee: B Speedie.