Bristol Rovers 1-2 Bolton Wanderers

  • August 17, 2016 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/3147b

Bolton moved to the top of League One, as goals from Josh Vela and Jay Spearing gave them a 2-1 victory at Bristol Rovers.

Vela gave Wanderers the lead inside six minutes at the Memorial Stadium, firing home via the aid of a deflection, before Spearing doubled their advantage 20 minutes later with an outstanding free-kick that flew into the top corner of the Rovers net.

The hosts pulled one back after the restart, as Ellis Harrison pounced to slot a rebound past Mark Howard, but they were unable to complete the comeback as Bolton held on to claim back-to-back away victories for the first time since April 2014 and extend their record as the only team to have made a 100% winning start in the EFL.

Having ended a 16-month wait for an away win with a 2-1 victory at AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, Phil Parkinson opted to name an unchanged side for the trip to Bristol.

Spearing continued to captain the side in the absence of Darren Pratley, while one change amongst the substitutes saw Conor Wilkinson step in for Max Clayton.

With the hosts entering the match unbeaten in 16 home matches, a run which included 11 consecutive wins, Wanderers knew they had to get off to a bright start and they got exactly what they wanted.

Neat play from Mark Davies and Jamie Proctor ended with the ball at the feet of Vela. After working himself a yard of space inside the Rovers box, Vela composed himself and found the back of Steve Mildenhall's net with the aid of a deflection.

Both sides enjoyed spells of possession in the moments that followed the opening goal, with Spearing dominating the midfield - pressing forward regularly and, more importantly, cutting out threats to his own goal inside the final third.

The Bolton skipper then produced something out of the ordinary, as he doubled the visitors' lead on 26 minutes. Stepping up 25 yards from goal, Spearing curled an outstanding free-kick into the top corner, with Mildenhall clutching at thin air in a desperate attempt to keep the ball out.

Wanderers were well on top at this stage and came close to adding to their lead on the half-hour, as Vela fired narrowly over the crossbar, before Rovers' appeals for a penalty were ignored as Liam Trotter took a gamble inside his own box.

Bolton's pursuit of a third continued as the half drew to a close, with Davies heading inches wide of the post, while Gary Madine's hopes of a spot-kick were turned away by referee Ollie Yates, as Wanderers took a very comfortable 2-0 lead into the break.

There were no changes to the visiting side as the players emerged for the start of the second period, although Bristol Rovers made a double substitution - with Billy Bodin and Jermaine Easter entering the fray.

A tactical switch from the Rovers boss gave Bolton less time on the ball after the restart, with a half-chance for Proctor as good as it got in the early exchanges.

Wanderers were then given a real test of character on 57 minutes, as Rovers got themselves back in the game with their first serious effort of the night.

Trotter entered the book for a foul on Easter and the resulting free-kick resulted in a goal. Lee Brown's effort came back off the post, but Harrison reacted quickest to turn the ball past a helpless Howard and bring the game back to 2-1.

Bristol Rovers were on top at this stage and twice came close to drawing level, but efforts from James Clarke and Matty Taylor failed to trouble Howard.

Yellow cards for Spearing and Madine followed, while both teams made alterations to on-field personnel, as Zach Clough replaced Proctor in the Wanderers attack.

Howard had to be at his best once more with 10 minutes remaining, this time getting down well to turn away a cross-cum-shot from Easter, while Bolton came close to sealing the victory, only for Clough's square ball for Conor Wilkinson, just on for Madine, falling just short of the forward for a tap-in.

Easter shot into the side netting as Rovers went in search of a late equaliser, but it wasn't forthcoming as Bolton saw out four minutes of added time to move to the top of the League One table with a perfect record of three wins from three.

They return to action on Saturday, when they turn out on home soil for a first-ever meeting with Fleetwood Town.

Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall, Lockyer, J Clarke, Hartley, Leadbitter (Bodin 46), O'Clarke (Easter 46), Lines, Sinclair, Brown (Montano 71), Taylor, Harrison
Subs Not Used: Puddy, Broom, James, Gaffney
Goals: Harrison 57

Bolton Wanderers: Howard, Buxton, Wheater, Beevers, Moxey, Spearing, Trotter (C Taylor 63), Davies, Vela, Proctor (Clough 71), Madine (Wilkinson 81)
Subs Not Used: Amos, A Taylor, Wilson, Woolery
Booked: Trotter, Spearing, Madine, Wilkinson
Goals: Vela 6, Spearing 26

Referee: Ollie Yates
Attendance: 9,169

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Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
19 Rochdale 34 36
20 AFC Wimbledon 35 35
21 Tranmere Rovers 34 32
22 Southend United 35 19
23 Bolton Wanderers 34 14
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