Saturday 16th February saw the 4-0 drubbing of Bolton Wanderers courtesy of UNIBOL visitors Norwich City who ended the day at the top of the Championship table.
Wanderers’ lineup consisted of that which finished the midweek win at St. Andrew’s against Birmingham City in a 3-5-2 formation with Pawel Olkowski and Craig Noone as wingbacks, previous match winner Connolly and Luke Murphy sitting in front of the back three and Josh Vela in behind the forward two of Magennis & Donaldson.
Upbeat from the midweek win, Wanderers started the brighter with an early headed chance for Donaldson who headed narrowly wide.
Norwich however soon grew in to the game and didn’t take them long to hit Bolton on the counter with an excellent move down the left eventually finding Pukki who turned last man Noone inside out before sending Matthews the wrong way, finishing smartly at the near post to give City the lead on the 8th minute.
Norwich, now comfortably in control of the game had Wanderers on the back foot and following another slick move down the right, it was Pukki’s turn to provide as he cut the ball back from the byline directly into the path of Stiepermann on the edge of the box who slammed the ball home hard and low to make it 2-0 after 25 minutes.
The league leaders should've then made it three just seconds later as an open Wanderers defence was cut through with ease, Hernandez slid the ball across the face of goal from a tight angle down the left just needing a touch to prod home, a connection Pukki couldn't quite make from a few yards out.
Refusing to rest on the laurels and eager to not rue that previous chance, the away side soon made it three as Hernandez’s neat dinked ball over the top found Emiliano Buendia, who'd beaten the offside trap to prod the ball past Matthews on the volley from close range inside 35 minutes. Game, set and match for Norwich, game over for Wanderers.
The visitor’s quick play had the beating of the Wanderers midfield and back line every time and taking advantage of that, once again, driving at the vulnerable defence, a rasping shot from range forced Matthews into action once more who parried away well.
In an attempt to cut the deficit before half time, a ball in from the left found the head of Magennis who cleverly nodded backwards into the path of Donaldson with the goal at his mercy who’s volleyed shot somehow ended up closer to the corner flag than the goal from ten yards out.
Wanderers went into the break three down and looked well beaten, now just aiming to limit the damage in the second half.
Bolton made two changes at the break bringing Sammy Ameobi and Joe Williams on in place of Clayton Donaldson and Josh Vela respectively.
Remi Matthews continued to pull of a string of saves in the second half to keep Wanderers relatively in the game, more so preventing a cricket score.
It took just over ten minutes after the break for City to get their fourth though as the visitors played us at our game, launching a long ball over the top which Pukki latched on to and despite being quickly closed down by Matthews, was able to loft the ball over him, the pace of the shot beat everyone tracking, bouncing into the roof of the empty net to give the league’s top scorer his second of the game.
Sammy Ameobi soon after took it upon himself to make the scoreline look somewhat more respectable, cutting in on to his left and firing in a shot from range but was easily dealt with by Krul.
It then very nearly got even more embarrassing for Wanderers after Mark Beevers allegedly tripped danger man Pukki in the box. Despite being on a hat-trick, the striker left the spot kick to designated taker McLean whose effort from 12 yards was well saved by Remi.
Clearly after a fifth, Norwich didn’t rest up and nearly made up for the penalty miss, going in search of another goal, Hernandez’s shot trickled just wide of the far post.
Substitute Joe Williams then went in search of a consolation goal for Bolton but his shot from the edge of the box was gathered easily by a relatively untested Krul.
With just over ten minutes to go, after Norwich failed to clear their lines, Wheater remained up front, lingering dangerously, the skipper managed a flurry of shots on target which brought Wanderers closest to a goal as they had been all afternoon.
As the game drew to a close, Phil Parkinson decided to make an incredibly unavoidable Phil Parkinson change which saw Will Buckley replace Craig Noone, why?
Successive Norwich changes amongst the goal celebrations brought the added time up to three minutes which inevitably cued a mass home crowd walkout.
Full Time and Wanderers were well beaten by what is comfortably, the best side to visit the UNIBOL this season. Credit where credit’s due.
The glimmer of hope following the midweek win at Brum has been shattered and its back to square one for Bolton.
Where’s the next result coming from? Who knows...
Leeds and Swansea away next up so unless you're intending on taking out a mortgage and travelling to Wales and back, I'm sure we’ll be seeing you all at the next home game vs cup quarter finalists Millwall.
I’m sorry I had to put you through this again, folks.