Goals from Joe Lolley and substitute Mustapha Carayol gave David Wagner’s Town side a well-deserved win at Bolton Wanderers to start 2016 with a bang.
After a shaky opening 20 minutes where the hosts were on top, the Terriers took control and could have won by far more than the score-line suggested after a dominant second 45 minutes.
Having won their first game in 17 against local rivals Blackburn in their final game of 2015, it was Neil Lennon’s players who started on top at the Macron Stadium. Pressing Town high up the pitch, Wagner’s side struggled to get any fluency in their passing for the first 20 minutes and had to ride their luck at times.
Bolton’s first big chance came inside the seventh minute. Having worked the ball to the Town right, home left back Dean Moxey sent a good cross towards the penalty spot and big strike Gary Madine beat the recalled Joel Lynch – who was making his 100th start for Town in the league – to the ball. However, his glancing header was always drifting wide of the far post.
Ben Chilwell twice had to react to block dangerous shots from Bolton players as the home side pressed, but it was his winger Liam Feeney who was causing Town the biggest problems. The former Millwall man was very unlucky in the 12th minute to see a superb hit from just over 20 yards out cannon off the post, having beaten Jed Steer in the Town goal.
The flow of the game flipped on its head in the 25th minute, centred on a huge moment in the Bolton box. A superb through ball from Joe Lolley sent Town top scorer Nahki Wells clear and as he ran into the penalty area, he looked to be brought down by centre back Prince’s tackle – only for referee Andy Haines to turn down the appeals. The incident happened right in front of the 2,200 travelling Town fans and they audibly let their displeasure be known.
However, the disappointment seemed to spur Town on and they finally settled into a rhythm to dominate possession from thereon in. First Wells sent a free kick similarly positioned to the one he scored at QPR on Monday – perhaps more centrally – over the bar after Lolley was brought down before Sean Scannell volleyed over a difficult chance just inside the area.
Another swift break led by Lolley earned Town another chance when Tommy Smith pushed a firm pass into Bunn’s path around the penalty spot, but Harry could only scuff his effort wide of the far post.
A spot of Gegenpressing earned the Terriers another great opportunity with five minutes of the half remaining, but with players in support of Wells he opted to shoot and a block snuffed out the opportunity. Bunn was completely unmarked in the middle of the area and should have received the pass.
Town’s momentum continued in the second half, with Emyr Huws creating the first chance within a minute. His excellent pass into the area found Wells’ clever movement again but although the Bermudian rounded the goalkeeper, centre back Prince got back to clear the shot behind.
Goalkeeper Ben Amos then came to his side’s rescue after Wells got clear again; his placed shot was saved by the custodian’s strong left hand when it looked certain he’d get his ninth of the season.
However, the goal did come in the 61st minute – with Joe Lolley getting his third of the season. The winger picked up a pass in the centre of the park and drove at goal before unleashing a shot that was blocked, but with Amos already diving the rebound dropped to Joe and he executed a controlled volley to send it into the unguarded net.
Ben Chilwell then wasted a very good opportunity minutes later after the goalscorer found him unmarked on the edge of the penalty area, but he sent his volley wildly over the bar.
Bolton’s best chance of the half passed when Zach Clough sent a bending effort inches wide of the right hand post from the edge of the box, but normal service was soon resumed as Town dominated the ball.
Huws soon had a right footed shot deflected wide before a firm right footed volley from Tommy Smith flew past the post and then impressive second half sub Paterson fired wide of target when well positioned.
The second goal looked to be coming and eventually did, although it took until the 87th minute. Mustapha Carayol, on as a late sub, slid Nahki Wells clear again and although Amos came out quickly to smother the initial effort, the ball dropped to the Gambian and he placed his effort into the unguarded net to double the advantage.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Jed Steer; Ben Chilwell, Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Emyr Huws (Martin Cranie, 87), Jonathan Hogg; Joe Lolley, Harry Bunn (Mustapha Carayol, 84), Sean Scannell (Jamie Paterson, 46); Nahki Wells
Joe Murphy, Jason Davidson, Ishmael Miller, Kyle Dempsey
Mark Hudson (81)