Bolton Wanderers opened 2018 with a vital 1-0 win against fellow strugglers Hull City at The Macron.
The game was the 500th competitive one Wanderers have played at The Reebok/Macron.
Having used a 3-5-2 formation for the win at Sheffield United, Phil Parkinson opted for a return to the usual 4-2-3-1. Josh Vela, Will Buckley, Sammy Ameobi and Mark Little all returned to the starting XI, having either been on the subs bench or injured for the Sheffield game.
The opening first fifteen minutes was relatively event free, up until the 13th minute when Wanderers were forced to make a change.
Karl Henry, a player who has been steady in midfield since his arrival in September, went off injured and was replaced by Josh Cullen.
A couple minutes later, Wanderers had their first chance of the game. Substitute Cullen teed up Madine in the box, but his shot was blocked.
Fortunately for Wanderers, Madine wouldn’t have to wait long for his goal.
In the twentieth minute, Wanderers were awarded a free kick twenty-five yards from goal. Who would take it? I thought Sammy Ameobi.
But no, it was Gary ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ Madine, who beautifully curled it over the wall and into the goal. Sheer brilliance from a player in the form of his life.
Gary Madine, the goal machine!— Eddie Skelly (@eddieskelly) January 1, 2018
What a strike #bwfc pic.twitter.com/YS16I2kp50
Wanderers went close to doubling the lead six minutes later, when Sammy Ameobi headed wide from close range.
Hull’s best chance of the half came five minutes after that. Ben Alnwick had to be at his best to deny Jarrod Bowen. This was one of many saves that birthday boy Alnwick made.
Bolton were forced into another unwanted change shortly after, when captain Darren Pratley was replaced by Filipe Morais. Morais took the place of Vela in the number 10 role, with Vela joining Cullen in a holding midfield role.
Ben Alnwick had to be alert to clear a Jon Toral free kick, whilst at the other end, Mark Beevers and Filipe Morais both had chances to score just before half time.
Just three minutes into the second half, Hull should have been level. A ball across Bolton’s box found an unmarked Bowen, who only had to tap the ball into an empty goal. Thankfully, Bowen somehow hit the post, much to the dismay of the travelling Hull supporters.
Wanderers had their first real chance of the second half ten minutes in, when Mark Little had a goalbound effort blocked. Shortly after, Filipe Morais almost doubled Bolton’s lead with a fine header, only to be denied superbly by Allan McGregor.
From the resulting corner, Hull went on the counter attack. Once again, Alnwick wasn’t going to be beaten, and saved Markus Henriksen’s shot.
Nigel Adkin’s then made a double substitution, bringing on Fraizer Campbell and Sebastian Larsson on in place of Nouha Dicko and Kevin Stewart.
Wanderers continued to carve out chances, with Everton loanee Antonee Robinson striking straight at McGregor from the edge of the box.
Both teams had chances to score towards the end of the game.
Morais fired over again, before another Hull cross just missed the outstretched leg of Evandro.
Gary Madine then headed just wide from a Adam Le Fondre cross. Moments later Seb Larsson fired wide deep into injury time.
The game would go on to end 1-0, with the win lifting Wanderers out of the relegation places and up to 20th.
Next up for Bolton is the 3rd round FA Cup tie against Huddersfield Town, before a return to league action away at Brentford on 13th January.