Though Manchester City were in Champions League action on earlier this week, there was another match taking place the same evening that fans may well have had a glance at.
As City won 1-0 on the night against Atletico Madrid at the Etihad Stadium to put themselves in the driving seat to qualify for the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition, some 19 miles away in Bolton, a glimpse of the future was on full view.
It wasn’t City’s youth teams in action, but two big names in English football now slugging it out in the third tier of English football and seeking to return up the divisions.
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Bolton Wanderers and Portsmouth took on each other regularly in the Premier League in days gone by, but both sides are now in League One and trying to get back up the divisions.
Having both been in administration in recent years, it has been tough times for fans of both clubs but things are looking up for both teams now.
Wanderers were promoted from League Two last season and look set to challenge for the top 10 in their first campaign back in the third tier of English football, while Pompey still have a chance of this season’s play-offs, though they appear unlikely. Next season is likely to present a bigger and better opportunity to do so for both sides.
And two City loans were in action up against one another in the form of James Trafford for Wanderers and Gavin Bazunu for Pompey.
Trafford spent the first half of the season at Accrington Stanley, before moving to Wanderers in January. He has since played ever game he has been available for as he has become Wanderers’ first choice stopper.
But Trafford is not the only City goalkeeper catching the eye and earning plaudits in League One.
Gavin Bazunu is out on loan at Portsmouth and earning rave reviews for Danny Cowley’s side.
The Pompey boss rates Bazunu as the ‘best I’ve ever worked with’ as EFL pundit George Elek has also claimed that the City loanee Gavin Bazunu is arguably the best goalkeeper in League One.
Trafford is under contract until the summer of 2023, with Bazunu a City player until 2024, and the duo faced one another when Pompey traveled to take on Wanderers at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Bazunu was first in action as he was closed down after two minutes by Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and had to clear for a throw in, while moments later, Trafford’s clearance went straight to Joe Morrell, but had too much pace on it to be controlled near the halfway line in a slightly nervous start for both.
Bazunu was the busier goalkeeper in the first half by far, having to make a stop from Dion Charles and producing a fantastic low save to deny Bolton top scorer Dapo Afolayan, as well having to claim a teasing low cross from Kieran Sadlier.
At the other end, Trafford caught a header from George Hirst, while Bazunu saw a long ball forward intercepted by Kyle Dempsey as the deadlock remained at the break.
Not long after half-time, Pompey went ahead thanks to Aiden O’Brien’s finish and Trafford parried away to keep the deficit at just one moments later.
After the hour mark as Wanderers sought an equaliser, Bazunu parried another Charles effort while Trafford had to claim a low cross from Marcus Harness.
Bolton got back on level terms when Sean Raggett brought down Elias Kachunga in the box and Sadlier slotted home, though Bazunu went the right way but could not keep out the low effort out down to his left.
From then, Trafford claimed a Portsmouth cross at the second time of asking in the final major piece of action for both sides as the spoils were ultimately shared.
Despite the odd moment, the young duo gave promising performances which should act as encouragement that there is plenty to be excited about in the goalkeeper department at City when Ederson’s time at the club draw to a conclusion and the pair are still around.