Bolton Wanderers 4-1 Walsall

  • February 11, 2017 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL:

Bolton put a difficult week off-the-field behind them, as they ended a six-match winless run with a resounding 4-1 victory over Walsall.

With the public fallout between co-owners Ken Anderson and Dean Holdsworth dominating headlines in the build-up to the game, Wanderers fans could have been forgiven for thinking they were in for a tough afternoon when Erhun Oztumer opened the scoring inside four minutes with an outstanding strike from 35 yards.

The hosts were level on the quarter-hour, however, as Gary Madine headed home from a corner, and they went ahead 11 minutes later when James O'Connor turned a low cross from Jay Spearing into his own net.

Liam Trotter picked out the top corner with a spectacular half-volley on the half-hour, before substitute Chris Long completed the scoring three minutes from time with an arrowing drive that beat Saddlers goalkeeper Neil Etheridge at his near post.

After bringing an end to a three-match losing streak with a draw at Milton Keynes Dons last time out, Bolton boss Phil Parkinson made three changes to the side - with Andrew Taylor, Liam Trotter and Adam Le Fondre starting in place of Long, Dean Moxey and the injured Lawrie Wilson.

Le Fondre enjoyed a successful loan spell with Wanderers in 2015, scoring eight goals in 17 matches, and almost got off to the perfect start on his return to the Macron, forcing Etheridge into a save inside the opening 10 seconds.

Instead, it was the visitors who got that perfect start, with the ball falling kindly to Oztumer 35 yards from goal. With Ben Alnwick off his line, the Saddlers forward took aim at goal and found the net with an amazing strike.

Bolton have struggled for confidence in recent weeks but it wasn't long before they were level, as a Spearing corner was headed home by Madine just 11 minutes later with a little help from the inside of a post.

The hosts then began to take control of possession and after his initial corner was only half-cleared, a low cross from Spearing caused panic in the Walsall defence, with O'Connor slicing past his own goalkeeper whilst under pressure from Le Fondre - as Wanderers completed the turnaround to lead 2-1.

The ball was in the back of the Walsall net again on the 30-minute mark, with Trotter, a man not known for his goals, picking out the top corner with a first-time effort for his third of the season.

With the goals flying in at the Macron, David Wheater was next to try his luck - taking aim with a 30-yard free-kick with he drilled narrowly over the top of the crossbar.

A neat one-two between Le Fondre and Trotter almost resulted in a fourth in first-half stoppage time, but Wanderers had to settle for a two-goal advantage as the sides went in at the interval.

Kick-off for the second period was delayed by a good 10 minutes, with assistant referee Helen Byrne said to have received medical attention from paramedics in the tunnel. Fourth official Sebastian Stockbridge took her position, allowing play to continue.

After scoring early in the opening 45 minutes, Walsall almost repeated that feat inside 90 seconds of the restart when they were handed an opportunity on a plate. A slip from Alnwick allowed Amadou Bakayoko a clean run on goal, but after taking the ball into a wide area he could only fire into the side netting from a narrow angle.

Taylor shot over the bar at the other end as Bolton looked to add a fourth, shortly before he became the first player to enter the referee's book for a late challenge on Jason McCarthy on the halfway line.

Controversy struck just before the hour, with Florent Cuvelier poking a shot towards goal. The ball looked to have crossed the line prior to being cleared by Mark Beevers, but the replacement fourth official allowed play to continue as Wanderers escaped without punishment for some slack defending.

Le Fondre hadn't seen much sight of goal on his first start since returning to Bolton, but he was provided with a half-chance midway through the half, only to see his effort flash wide of the target following a cross from Filipe Morais.

Le Fondre's afternoon was cut short on 72 minutes, with on-loan Burnley forward Long coming on in his place, shortly before Tom Thorpe replaced a fatigued Trotter.

In between those two changes came another opportunity for Bolton to add to their tally, but Etheridge stuck out a hand to keep out a fierce drive from Madine and prevent him from netting his second of the afternoon.

Long thought he had scored on his home debut on 84 minutes, only to be denied by an offside flag, but that goal was to arrive just three minutes later as he pounced on a mistake down the right-flank before racing into the box and sending a thunderbolt of a strike beyond Etheridge at his near post to cap a wonderful afternoon for the home side.

Viv Solomon-Otabor was handed a home debut in the closing stages, with another Macron debutant Morais the one to leave the field, and there was still time for one last effort at goal, but Long couldn't add to his earlier strike as he failed to get the necessary contact required to lift the ball over a stranded goalkeeper - ensuring the final score remained at 4-1.

Bolton's win sees them consolidate 3rd place in League One, two points ahead of Fleetwood Town, over whom they have two games in-hand, while they trail Scunthorpe United by four, also with a game to spare.

Wanderers return to action on Tuesday night, when they look to record back-to-back wins as they host Rochdale on Valentine's night.

Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, A Taylor, Beevers, Wheater, Osede, Spearing, Trotter (Thorpe 76), Morais (Solomon-Otabor 88), Vela, Le Fondre (Long 72), Madine
Subs Not Used: Howard, Moxey, Clayton, Wilkinson
Booked: A Taylor, Spearing
Goals: Madine 15, O'Connor 26(og), Trotter 30, Long 87

Walsall: Etheridge, Preston, O'Connor, O'Connell, McCarthy, Cuvelier, Chambers, Edwards (Randall-Hurren 78), Oztumer, Bakayoko (Jackson 78)
Subs Not Used: MacGillivray, Laird, Dobson, Morris, Moussa
Booked: Chambers, Cuvelier
Goals: Oztumer 4

Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 13,610

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 >>


Who is Bolton's 2021/22 Player of the Year?
32.58% Oladapo Afolayan
30.96% Gethin Jones
21.72% Ricardo Almeida Santos
5.51% Declan John
4.05% Kieran Lee
3.08% MJ Williams
1.78% Joel Dixon
0.32% George Johnston