Bolton 1 Fleetwood 0: Youthful Town fight to the last in Papa John's Trophy exit
Stephen Crainey’s codlings acquitted themselves superbly against Bolton’s big fish but couldn’t cause a Papa John’s Trophy upset at the rain-lashed University of Bolton Stadium.
Interim boss Crainey used this first knockout tie against Town’s League One rivals to run the rule over the club’s up and coming prospects.
Kieran Lee’s first-half goal ultimately settled this dress rehearsal for next Tuesday's league showdown at Highbury.
But Town came close to forcing a penalty shootout late on as substitute Chris Conn-Clarke and Cian Hayes were thwarted by keeper Joel Dixon.
And while Ian Evatt’s side will have a similar look to it next week, Town’s team will be much changed from this youthful side.
Crainey switched his entire starting line-up from last Saturday’s creditable draw at AFC Wimbledon, naming six of his Academy graduates in the 11.
Only captain Conor McLaughlin in the 18-man matchday squad wore a shirt with a single-digit number on the back.
Contrary to his pre-match suggestion, Bolton boss Evatt named a strong starting line-up, including top scorers Dapo Afolayan and Eoin Doyle, plus in form Elias-Kachunga and ex-Blackpool striker, Nathan Delfouneso in reserve.
Both teams made positive starts in their bids to reach the last 16.
Hayes, fresh from extending his Town contract this week, cut in from the right on his left foot after five minutes and forced Dixon into a vital intervention by his near post.
Welsh international Declan John produced a carbon copy move at the opposite end, though his effort flew just wide.
The ex-Swansea left-back was bang on target moments later but Billy Crellin was equal to the fizzing shot.
Crellin spent a mixed loan spell with Wanderers in League Two last season and there was nothing he could do when Bolton took a 35th-minute lead.
A ball behind Town’s defence was helped on by Doyle and Lee’s instantly-hit right-foot shot was guided out of the keeper’s reach.
Fleetwood finished the half on top and there were loud appeals for a penalty as Harrison Biggins appeared to be clattered by Dixon.
The visitors also forced two corners in the closing stages as they sought an equaliser.
Connor Teale replaced skipper McLaughlin at half-time, returning to the senior team for the first time since Town’s 3-1 PJT win at Barrow.
Crellin then kept Fleetwood in the game with a smart stop from master marksman Doyle. Trailing on goals, Town went in front on bookings as Biggins and Max Clark were cautioned by referee Ben Speedie in quick succession for fouls on Aimson and Gordon.
Teale landed his own yellow card, with Doyle the victim of a robust challenge.
In between, Conn-Clarke came on for Max McMillan and soon caused problems for the home defence, including another ex-Seasider in Alex Baptiste.
Seven minutes of stoppage time gave Fleetwood further encouragement, but Bolton held on to claim a £20,000 pay day and maintain their 100 percent record in the tournament.
The defeat ends Fleetwood's cup interests for the season and extends their winless sequence to 10 in all competitions.
If Crainey remains in charge to lock horns with his former Blackpool defensive partner Evatt again in a week's time, expect a very different line-up and far higher stakes.
Fleetwood: Crellin, McLaughlin (Teale 45), Edmondson, Biggins, Clark, Baggley, Boyle, Johnston, McMillan (Conn-Clarke 60), Hayes, Bird; Subs not used: Rees, Raffie, Thompson, Edwards, Batch.
Bolton: Dixon, John (Delfouneso 70), Johnston, Doyle (Kachunga 70), Amaechi (Henry 84), Aimson, Afolayan (Tweedley 84), Lee (Pettifer 70), Thomoason, Baptiste, Gordon; Sub not used: Gilks
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here