Crunch clash looming for Wanderers

24 Apr 2018 08:39
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Bolton Wanderers travel to Burton Albion at the weekend for a crucial Championship clash that will go a long way to deciding which division they will play in next season.

William Kirkpatrick looks back on the last month’s action which explains the reasons they find themselves in this position

After a long, turbulent season, Bolton fans might have been breathing a sigh of relief as they travelled to Leeds, a side with nothing much to play for.

But the Whites were slow off the mark and were punished for it early on, conceding within the opening five minutes when a weak cross into the box wasn’t dealt with and the ball fell into the path of Caleb Ekuban who found the bottom corner.

Leeds’s pacey attackers tormented Bolton’s defence with effective counter-attacking football splitting holes in it as Wanderers looked to find an equaliser.

Bolton enjoyed large spells of possession but struggled to create chances in the first half.

The same pressure from the left persisted into the second half, earning Leeds a second early on. A long range shot from Alioski was well saved by ben Alnwick, but the parry fell into the path of Pablo Hernandez who finished from close range.

It took three minutes until Bolton found a way to half the deficit. A swinging cross from Sammy Ameobi was met with the head of Adam Le Fondre and his strong header was enough to catch the Leeds keeper off guard.

Bolton went into their game against Birmingham within three points of Birmingham and five in front of Barnsley who found themselves in the relegation zone. A win would have seen Bolton surpass 40 points, often said to be the survival target.

In a relatively cagey affair, neither team could get a hold of the game. The breakthrough came just before half time. 

A Maghoma free-kick was poorly marked by Bolton. Beevers and Taylor, those marking ex-Bolton player Lukas Jutkiewicz, allowed the striker to connect uncontested to the ball and open the scoring.

Tensions sparked as Che Adams received a straight red card for a high tackle on Craig Noone. The winger seemingly invited Adams to commit to the high challenge who felt the full force of the studs from the striker.

Despite trailing and playing against 10 men, Bolton seemed uninspired and were happy to retain meaningless possession. The introduction of Zach Clough failed to spark creativity from an otherwise frustrating and boring game.

Le Fondre was denied a penalty when his shot seemingly struck a hand and the closest Bolton came to equalising came through a late Ben Alnwick header from a corner, a perfect summary of Bolton’s attacking threat since Gary Madine’s departure.

Travelling to Derby, Bolton found themselves in desperate need of points County also needed them in their play-off push.

Bolton were soon under pressure. A poor pass by Burke led to a Derby counter-attack, forcing Alnwick into a brilliant save with his feet.

Bolton’s slow start was punished in the sixth minute as Alex Pearce rose highest to connect to a Derby corner.

Things went from bad to worse for the Wanderers as Derby doubled their lead. A pass found David Nugent alone one on one with Alnwick. His shot was saved, but the ball fell into the path of Matej Vydra who slotted the ball into an empty net.

Bolton’s poor afternoon climaxed in the second half as Tom Lawrence waltzed through the defence before shooting from a distance.

Beavers came close with two attempts from corners, Bolton’s only two attempts of the game which were on target.

The whites then hosted Millwall, another team pushing for promotion.

Bolton came out fighting, looking to make the most of their good home form and an early Ameobi cross caused problems in the Millwall box, as Craig Noone attempted to fumble the ball in, but was met with a blockade by the Millwall keeper and defenders.

Noone then drove in a shot from a distance which took a large deflection, going close to sneaking in.

Despite their dominance, Bolton once again conceded the first goal when Ben Marshall lost his defenders too easily and crossed the ball into the path of Tom Elliot who headed the ball past Alnwick.

Millwall doubled their lead shortly after the restart. Mahlon Romeo running from right-back to the Bolton box relatively unchallenged before crossing into the path of Marshall who finished.

Ameobi came close with a late long-range chance as his shot was too hot to handle for the Millwall keeper who nearly helped it into his net.

Bolton then travelled to Barnsley for another crucial game and another slow start from the Whites resulted in Barnsley taking a first-half lead, Gary Gardner firing home from a corner.

Bolton looked much better after the break but were denied pa penalty on a couple of occasions, firstly when Ameobi’s shot appeared to be blocked by a Barnsley arm, then when Mark Beevers collided with Kieffer Moore but nothing was given.

David Wheater came close with a corner soon after, but his attempt was cleared off the line.

Bolton were finally rewarded for their myriad of chances as Will Buckley was fouled in the box and a spot kick was awarded, Adam Le Fondre firing home with eight minutes left.

Bolton found a second three minutes later - the first time they had taken the lead since their defeat to Preston in March – when Noone connected to a volley from close range in front of the travelling fans.

That lead only lasted eight minutes as Barnsley found an equaliser at the death. A corner was flicked on into the path of Oliver McBurnie who headed the ball in from close range.

The Whites then hosted already promoted Wolves, who would clinch the title with a draw or better.

To say that Bolton were outclassed would be an understatement, as Wolves showed why they are Champions.

Bolton had a strong opening 10 minutes, Filipe Morais was the artist creating Bolton’s opportunities, seemingly out of nothing.

Once Barry Douglass converted a loose ball into an empty net however, any optimism Bolton fans had quickly evaporated.

Benik Afobe doubled Wolves’ lead before half-time and Diogo Jota rubbed salt in the wounds shortly after the break when he chipped Ben Alnwick.

And just past the hour mark Conor Coady completed the scoring from the penalty spot.

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