Town come away from the Reebok with nothing
After a second half featuring a host of chances for the Terriers at the Reebok Stadium, it is amazing to think they have come away with nothing this evening – but in the end an individual error was enough to give Bolton all three points.
Town more than matched their opponents throughout the 90 minutes and went close to scoring on several occasions, but in the end a rare second half mistake from Captain Peter Clarke gave Bolton the best chance of the game, from which Chris Eagles capitalised.
The skipper dallied on the ball instead of putting it into touch and was robbed of possession, which led to the only goal of the game on a very frustrating evening.
Mark Robins brought Danny Ward back into the side, who spent four years as a Trotter – making two Premier League appearances – in place of the suspended Adam Clayton, whereas Sean Scannell played in place of Jermaine Beckford.
Town, in their red third kit, were backed by a good following behind Alex Smithies’ goal in the first half and gave as good as they got from their hosts.
Bolton’s game-plan seemed to be to hit their athletic front two of David Ngog and Marvin Sordell as quickly as possible, who were pulling into the channels. One fourth minute cross from the former was cleared into the path of left back Marcos Alonso by opposite number Paul Dixon, but his eventual shot from range was deflected wide.
Ngog dragged a shot well wide after a neat turn on the angle of the box soon after as Bolton had the speculative early efforts at goal in an even encounter.
Town received a blow on the quarter hour mark when right back Jack Hunt picked up an injury in a foul tackle on Chung-Young Lee. After treatment from physio James Haycock, it became clear the Academy graduate couldn’t continue; he was replaced by Calum Woods.
It was Woods who had Town’s first meaningful attempt at goal in the 26th minute as the Bolton fans became increasingly frustrated at their side’s insistence on working the channels. Ward played the ball out wide for the full back and he strode onto the ball before firing a couple of feet wide of Bolton’s right hand post from fully 30 yards out. It was quite an effort from a man who hadn’t scored in his first 54 appearances for the Club – and not far away!
However, the hosts fought back and had a real chance to open the scoring just before the half hour mark. A raking pass to the right was perfect for winger Chris Eagles to move onto and he beat Dixon with his first touch before entering the area. He drew centre back Anthony Gerrard before sliding the ball back to the penalty spot for Ngog, but much to the chagrin of the home fans he sent his shot high into the stand with the goal at his mercy.
Excellent play from Ollie Norwood sent Sean Scannell away down the left four minutes later and he made light work of Danny Butterfield, the central midfielder filling in at right back for Bolton. Sadly for Town his eventual left foot cross from the dead ball line was fired too far ahead of James Vaughan in the area.
Alonso curled a 25 yard free kick wide of Smithies goal at the other end after Oscar Gobern brought down Darren Pratley, but Town really got on top in the final stages of the half. Uncharacteristically James Vaughan – Town’s nine goal top scorer – spurned two great opportunities via deflections into his path from Woods and Norwood, with the ball slipping out of his control. Otherwise, he would have been through on goal on both occasions.
A typically excellent block from Peter Clarke cleared a dangerous cross from Lee to safety with two minutes of the half remaining, but Town finished the stronger.
First on the cusp of 45 minutes a long clearance from Smithies, contested in the air by Vaughan and centre back Craig Dawson, fell into the path of Ward and his shot from the edge of the box flashed just the wrong side of Andy Lonergan’s post.
Then Dawson almost scored for Town himself in an action-packed added time period. He managed to block a piledriver from Gobern, but then turned the ball back towards his goalkeeper too strongly – forcing Lonergan to claw the ball away with a strong right hand.
The ball went for a corner, from which Town went as close to opening the scoring as either side had in the half. Norwood’s near post delivery was flicked on by Vaughan and Peter Clarke rose in a crowd of players at the back stick – and hit the bar. The rebound fell to Gobern, but he was crowded out and the chance was gone.
Bolton started the second half brightly, with Sordell blasting wide from outside the area in the opening 17 seconds. That signalled a good period for the hosts and it looked like they had taken the lead three minutes in when Ngog hooked a cross towards the far post – only for Smithies to brilliantly push the ball to safety from practically on the line.
Midfield runners were causing Town some genuinely restless moments in the early stages of the second half, but the Terriers fought back – pressing Bolton back into their own half for a spell. Pressure from Danns forced Alonso into conceding a corner in the 51st minute, but Gerrard could only head high and wide from Ward’s deep delivery under severe pressure from his marker.
Town led a superb breakaway in the 55th minute from a Bolton corner after a poor Bolton pass picked out Danns. His instant pass released the pacey Scannell down the right and he drove at the defence before slipping a pass inside to Norwood, but as it looked like he would shoot he tried to slide a pass left to Danns and the chance was gone. The diminutive midfielder – who was playing well – should have pulled the trigger.
However, all Town’s hard work was undone by an error from Peter Clarke on the 58th minute. The Captain took a chance rather than clearing the ball in Town’s right hand corner and lost control, allowing Sordell to knock him off the ball and advance to the penalty area. The striker sensibly waited before sliding the ball across the face of goal for Chris Eagles to place past Smithies.
Sean Scannell took the attack back to Wanderers with a jinking run in the penalty area straight after the restart, but he was booked when referee David Webb believed he had gone down too easily in the area with a defender in close attendance.
A succession of set pieces panicked Dougie Freedman’s side in the next five minutes, with another Vaughan overhead kick from a Ward knock-down forcing Lonergan into comfortable action to his right side.
Scannell then set off again, undeterred by his earlier booking. He flew past Butterfield’s outside before crossing to the left and when a defender’s foot deflected the ball towards goal it looked to going in – only to drop inches wide of the far post.
The onslaught on Bolton’s goal continued soon after with Scannell and Danns driving at defenders, but somehow the Trotters got a block on the ball every time – the latest being a half-block on Ward’s 67th minute drive that saw the ball fly over the bar.
Scannell had come to life in the second half and left the stumbling Lee in his wake en route to the penalty area five minutes later, with a defender eventually clearing up after the ‘keeper spilled the winger’s long range drive. The corner was played short to substitute Woods, but he blazed over after cutting infield onto his left.
Smithies dealt with a rare Bolton attack with 15 minutes remaining, stifling a free-kick from goalscorer Eagles to good effect.
Jermaine Beckford came on for Danns immediately afterwards but Bolton forced the pace, with Sordell breaking free and crossing just beyond strike partner Ngog before a few Town blocks cleared to safety. That set sub Beckford away and he turned Dawson neatly in the area before seeing his initial shot blocked – and sending the rebound over on his weaker left.
Town pressed hard in the final minutes and had a golden chance on the stroke of the 90th minute. Ward powered a cross in from the right and Beckford got his head to the ball – only to see it fly inches wide of the far post with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Alex Smithies; Paul Dixon, Anthony Gerrard, Peter Clarke (Lee Novak 90), Jack Hunt (Calum Woods 15); Oscar Gobern, Oliver Norwood; Sean Scannell, Neil Danns (Jermaine Beckford 76), Danny Ward; James Vaughan
Ian Bennett, Murray Wallace, Scott Arfield, Theo Robinson
Sean Scannell (60); Calum Woods (81); Oscar Gobern (90)