Friday evening saw Bolton Wanderers gain a vital three points in front of the nation to re-instate their survival hopes after beating Bristol City 1-0.
Whilst Wanderers began the evening in the drop zone whilst City were sitting pretty in fifth and, despite recent poor form, the visitors were the favourites going into the game.
Phil Parkinson was forced to change the system once more following the loss of star striker Gary Madine which lead to the return of 3-5-2 at the Macron.
Dorian Dervite was slotted in along side Mark Beevers and David Wheater in a back three due to the unexpected absence of returning loanee Reece Burke. Mark Little and Antonee Robinson started as wing backs with Derik and Karl Henry sat in front of the back four. Josh Vela started in his usual number ten role behind improvising striker Sammy Ameobi and new signing Tyler Walker.
Bristol started far brighter and were unfortunate not to be awarded in the opening ten minutes when Ben Alnwick wiped out Bobby Reid in the area, luckily for Wanderers, the referee gave the decision the other way.
Bolton gradually grew in to the game, our attacking threat, courtesy of former Bristol man Mark Little who proved difficult to contain down the right, often beat his man and was unfortunate not to get an assist to his name on the night.
Sammy Ameobi was given free roam further up the field and nearly opened the scoring with what would've already been goal of the season. Amoebi’s pace and quick feet was too much for the initial three that surrounded him before forcing the ball beyond the reach of a fourth challenger before setting himself in front of goal and narrowly curling the ball wide of the far top corner.
The first half was extremely end to end and City went just as close minutes later when Famara Diédhiou was inches from connecting with Reid’s dangerous low ball which flew across the face of Alnwick’s goal, evading everyone in the area.
Tyler Walker then went close for Wanderers down the other end when the forward’s pace trait came into it’s own when he found himself in behind the Bristol defence, Luke Steele was forced to turn the loanee forward’s effort behind for a corner which nearly wormed it’s way underneath the goalkeeper.
Half Time came around, with the sides level at the break, there was still work to be done for both teams if they wanted to take all three points from the game.
No changes were made after the first 45 and the opening period of the second half was fairly uneventful. It wasn't long however, before Bristol City came the closest of the two sides to breaking the deadlock.
Diédhiou’s powerful, deflected header was smartly stopped by Ben Alnwick. His parry was then crucially slid behind for a corner by David Wheater who was luckily first to react.
The next break in play saw Zach Clough introduced from the bench, making his return to the Macron who was given a hero’s welcome as he replaced fellow Forest loanee Tyler Walker.
A clumsy challenge on the edge of the Bristol City area was naturally handed to Clough who, unsurprisingly, was keen to make an immediate impact for his boyhood club. His effort from 25-yards however, was comfortably saved by Steele.
With the game still very much end-to-end 70 minutes in, Wanderers eventually made the most of a poor Bristol corner which was exquisitely cleared by Antonee Robinson who’s back heel proved to be the assist to Ameobi’s goal.
Collecting the ball on the edge of the Bolton area, Sammy drove forward whilst Clough and Robinson forged a path on either side of the forward, the pair’s distraction was enough to unforgivingly allow Ameobi to shoot from distance. His low effort beat Steele all ends up and nestled into the far bottom corner to put Wanderers ahead.
From this moment on, Wanderers held out strongly and, despite throwing men behind the ball, they nearly doubled their lead when Ameobi’s outside-of-the foot cross was dummied by Vela, gifting Clough a golden opportunity to make it the perfect return. Zach, sadly, couldn't convert and placed his effort, which wouldn’t quite sit up for him, just over the bar.
Worried that we’d be punished for not taking this chance, Wanderers had to throw the kitchen sink at Bristol City to prevent them from getting a late equaliser and eventually, their commitment to the cause payed off as the final whistle blew, keeping Bolton just out of danger for another week, ever increasing our survival chances.
A fantastic result for the Whites then. Let’s hope we can keep up this momentum going into next weekend’s game against Fulham at home.