Ian Evatt’s Bolton Wanderers headed to Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, for the first time in their history on Saturday to face Mark Cooper’s Forest Green Rovers in a highly anticipated top-of-the-table clash live on Sky Sports. Whilst the pre-match build-up focused on the fluid attacking football of the visitors, it was in fact a resolute defensive performance that saw Bolton notch up their 11th win in their last 13 games.
A moment of brilliance from Irish striker Eoin Doyle ultimately proved the difference in a tight affair in farming country as he volleyed home his 16th goal of the season shortly before half time.
There was a surprise in the Wanderers starting line up as young midfielder George Thomason returned to the side and perhaps even more surprising was the inclusion of a substitute goalkeeper on the bench as Burnley loanee Lukas Jensen joined the Wanderers substitutes.
The game started on a sour note as FGR front man Jamille Matt was struck with a serious hand injury following an accidental collision with Wanderers midfielder MJ Williams, it was later reported that the striker would miss the rest of the season.
With confidence levels understandably high, Wanderers started brightly. The Trotters were moving the ball around sharply and their best effort of the early exchanges came through Thomason, who’s strong left footed effort from distance was saved smartly at the near post.
The hosts grew into the game as things progressed and the impressive Kane Wilson forced a save from Matt Gilks in the Bolton goal and Josh Davidson was denied a glorious chance following the defensive work of left back Declan John.
As half time approached, Bolton showed their quality as Nathan Delfouneso broke free on the right wing to deliver an inch-perfect cross which was dispatched clinically on the volley by Bolton’s leading goalscorer Doyle.
The second half proved to be a far more cagey affair as the hosts tried to create opportunities but Bolton’s defence offered very little to their opponents. Centre-back pairing Alex Baptiste and Ricardo Santos stood firm as FGR’s forwards tried a number of different modes of attack. It perhaps would have been interesting to see the battle of Santos vs Mat but it wasn’t to be.
Bolton held off FGR’s efforts relatively comfortably to secure a vital win as we now enter the run in, these types of results against sides also in the hunt could easily prove to be decisive come May.