Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Sheffield United

  • August 06, 2016 | By Chris Mann
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Jay Spearing scored the only goal as Bolton began life in League One with a morale-boosting victory over Sheffield United, at Macron Stadium.

Much against the run of play, Spearing struck eight minutes before the break, unleashing a bending volley into the corner of the Blades net to seal an opening day win in Wanderers' first competitive game under Phil Parkinson.

The Trotters ended the afternoon with 10 men, however, after captain Darren Pratley was stretchered off following a 50-50 challenge, with Bolton having already used all three of their permitted substitutes.

Despite pre-match speculation over the eligibility of certain players, Parkinson handed debuts to four of his summer signings - Mark Howard, Lewis Buxton, Mark Beevers and Chris Taylor - while David Wheater marked his return to the club with a place in the back-four. Jamie Proctor, an arrival from Bradford City, was on the bench.

Both teams began in slow fashion, although it was the home side who created the first chances, as free-kicks from Spearing caused panic for George Long in the Blades goal.

Sheffield United should have led inside eight minutes though, as Mark Duffy's free-kick found an unmarked Leon Clarke, who somehow headed wide of the target from inside the six-yard box.

Wheater provided some expert defending to cut out a cross-cum-shot from Duffy moments later, before Chris Hussey drilled a ball across the face of goal without any United forward being able to turn it home.

Two further pieces of excellent defending from Wheater denied United certain goals inside the opening 20 minutes, as he denied both Clarke and John Fleck, before he got his head to a corner at the other end only to see the ball loop into the arms of Long.

Long was called into action again on 25 minutes, this time to make a routine save from a Pratley strike, shortly before Josh Vela became the first player to have his name taken this season after a late challenge on halfway.

Then, after an earlier onslaught of pressure and much against the run of play, Wanderers broke the deadlock in spectacular style. A throw-in saw the ball land at the feet of Spearing, who looked up and unleashed an unstoppable volley that nestled into the bottom corner of the net.

Spearing was booked before the half was out, but there was to be no further action inside five added minutes as Bolton took their lead into the break.

There were no changes to either side as the players emerged for the start of the second period, which began with Clarke heading wide for United after he peeled off at the far post.

Howard, lining up against his former club, raced off his line to prevent Clarke running onto a through ball from the next attack, moments before a long-range effort from Lawrie Wilson failed to trouble Long.

Sheffield United had the ball in the net just before the hour, with Billy Sharp firing across Howard and into the far corner, but the referee's assistant had raised his flag for offside well in advance.

The first substitution arrived on 60 minutes, as Mark Davies came on in place of Taylor, and he was involved almost immediately, working a move with both Madine and Spearing before seeing a shot charged down.

Pratley thought he'd doubled Bolton's lead midway through the half, as he leapt superbly to head Dean Moxey's long-throw goalwards, but Long hurled himself to his left to parry behind for a corner.

Vela then clipped the outside of the post, as he got on the end of a backheel from Madine before scuffing a shot inches wide.

Proctor, who had just come on for Madine, tried the spectacular within minutes of his introduction, seeing an overhead kick fly narrowly wide, before Wanderers were forced into one final change as Liam Trotter replaced an injured Spearing.

Then, with just 10 minutes remaining, Bolton were forced into ending the game with 10 men as Pratley was stretchered off the field following a 50-50 challenge. The skipper looked in discomfort immediately afterwards and was clearly unable to continue.

From that point on, Sheffield United, now a man to the good, pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

Fleck was the player looking to create something out of nothing for the visitors, but the towering prescence of Howard, Wheater and Trotter managed to keep the Blades at bay as Bolton held on for a first opening day win since 2011 - when they were 4-0 victors at Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League.

Following their victory, Wanderers will look to follow it up on Tuesday evening when they travel to Blackpool for an EFL Cup first round tie, looking to end a run of 16 months without an away win.

Bolton Wanderers: Howard, Buxton, Beevers, Wheater, Moxey, Taylor (Davies 60), Spearing (Trotter 77), Vela, Wilson, Pratley, Madine (Proctor 72)
Subs Not Used: Amos, Osede, Walker, Woolery
Booked: Vela, Spearing
Goals: Spearing 37

Sheffield United: Long, Brayford, O'Connell, Wilson, Hussey, Duffy (Scougall 67), Fleck, Basham, Done (Adams 67), L Clarke, Sharp
Subs Not Used: McNulty, Ramsdale, Wright, Coutts, Wallace
Booked: Clarke, Adams

Referee: Ross Joyce
Attendance: 17,050

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
1 Accrington Stanley 0 0
2 Barnsley 0 0
3 Bolton Wanderers 0 0
4 Bristol Rovers 0 0
5 Burton Albion 0 0
View Full Standings >>


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