Bolton Wanderers fans are constantly bemoaning the lack of young talent emerging from the club's ranks, but the full debut of Zach Clough suggests they've unearthed an excellent young starlet. The 19-year-old put in a man of the match performance as he scored the only goal in Bolton's third round FA Cup win over local rivals Wigan Athletic.
Wanderers dominated this clash with the 2013 FA Cup winners and last year's semi-finalists, yet for long periods of the match it seemed a lack of killer instinct could come back to bite them. But Clough's composed strike on 76 minutes was the moment of class the hosts were largely lacking and proved the difference between the two sides.
Bolton dominated the first-half without finding a vital goal, with former Whites goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi proving a constant irritation as he denied efforts from the two Liams, Trotter and Feeney. While David Wheater, in for the injured Matt Mills, saw a header go narrowly wide and Trotter had a goal disallowed for offside early on.
But the second half was the Zach Clough show, as the young forward won Wanderers the match. Moments into the second half Clough collected the ball and ran half the length of the pitch only to see his shot well blocked, then on the hour mark he slalomed a couple of challenges before hitting a shot that was saved by Al Habsi.
Then the Manchester-born youngster's big moment came with quarter of an hour to go. After being played clean through on goal by Trotter's pass, Clough showed composure beyond his years as he took his time and lifted the ball over Al Habsi to nestle it into the bottom corner. It was a brilliant finish which topped off a superb performance from the young forward.
Special mention also has to go to Adam Bodgan, who has been starved of performances of late due to the exceptional form of Andy Lonergan. The Hungarian goalkeeper made several key saves, including a superb point-blank stop from Adam Forshaw's header just moments after Clough's opener, and a late stop from Shaun Maloney's top corner-bound shot.
Clough's goal sees Wanderers progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup, which will be drawn on Monday evening.