Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Rotherham United

  • December 26, 2018 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL:

Gary O'Neil scored his first goal for Bolton, as they brought an end to a 13-game winless run with victory over Rotherham United on Boxing Day.

O'Neil, whose last goal came for Bristol City in defeat at Reading in November 2016, struck on 65 minutes at the University of Bolton Stadium after a cross-cum-shot from Clayton Donaldson was parried by United goalkeeper Marek Rodak.

Wanderers had earlier taken a 33rd-minute lead through Sammy Ameobi's third of the campaign, but that lasted just four minutes as Will Vaulks headed home from a Joe Newell free-kick.

Defeat at Brentford on Saturday ensured Phil Parkinson's side would spend Christmas Day in the relegation zone for the third campaign in succession at this level, and he responded by making three changes to the side that began at Griffin Park.

Out went Jack Hobbs, Pawel Olkowski and Will Buckley - all of whom were named amongst the substitutes - while Mark Beevers, Joe Williams and Donaldson were those taking their places.

The first chance arrived with seven minutes on the clock and it fell the way of the hosts, with the returning Williams shooting straight into the arms of Rodak after he had got on the end of a pass from Andrew Taylor.

Rotherham's first effort came 10 minutes later, after Trotters goalkeeper Ben Alnwick slipped as he looked to clear the ball. Richie Towell pounced on the loose ball and sent it back towards goal, but Alnwick recovered to make a routine stop.

They came closer moments afterwards, as a cross from Newell was chested down by Jamie Proctor. Michael Smith was lurking on the edge of the box, but his half-volley on the turn sailed narrowly over the crossbar.

Semi Ajayi headed wide from a Newell cross midway through the half, while Williams sliced wide from 25 yards at the other end.

Beevers headed wide from an O'Neil free-kick as the clock reached the half-hour stage, shortly before Donaldson saw a shot trickle past the post after Christian Doidge had knocked down another delivery from O'Neil.

The deadlock was broken on 33 minutes, however, and it was Wanderers' persistence that paid off.

Williams pounced on a slack clearance and brought Donaldson into play. After finding O'Neil in space, the veteran midfielder squared to Ameobi, who got the better of Zak Vyner before drilling low into the bottom corner beyond Rodak.

Rotherham were level just four minutes later though, as a free-kick from the right-hand side by Newell was headed past Alnwick by an unmarked Vaulks.

Taylor saw a first-time volley deflect behind as Bolton looked to restore their lead before the break, but the sides went in level at the interval level at 1-1.

There were no changes to either side as the players returned for the second period, which started with Doidge shooting wide within 60 seconds of the restart.

With one goal already to his name, Vaulks came close to putting the visitors ahead moments later with a first-time strike from the right-hand corner of the Wanderers box that brought an outstanding low stop out of Alnwick.

Bolton had the ball in the net on 51 minutes as Doidge lashed home from the edge of the box, but referee Jeremy Simpson had already blown for a foul against Marc Wilson, who was also presented with a yellow card.

Williams and Doidge both got shots away without success as Bolton began to take control of the game, while Doidge headed over just after the hour after Jason Lowe had crossed into dangerous territory.

Wanderers went ahead for a second time on 65 minutes though, as O'Neil netted his first for the club - and first of any kind in over two years.

Pouncing on a slip from Vyner, Donaldson advanced into the penalty area and saw a cross-cum-shot parried back into the danger zone by Rodak. O'Neil was the quickest to react and maintained his composure before firing through a sea of bodies to put the hosts 2-1 up.

Josh Magennis, on as a substitute for Donaldson, forced Rodak into a reaction save with a stinging free-kick with seven minutes to play, while Ajayi headed over from close range as Rotherham looked to escape with a late equaliser.

Both managers made changes in the latter stages as they desperately went in search of much-needed points in the battle against relegation, but it was Bolton who were to take all three as they held on to taste victory.

Millwall's win over Reading at The Den means Wanderers remain in the bottom three, just one point behind both the Lions and the Millers, ahead of Saturday's home game against Stoke City.

Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, Taylor (Olkowski 67), Beevers, Wheater, Lowe, Ameobi (Buckley 90+5), J Williams, Wilson, O'Neil, Donaldson (Magennis 78), Doidge
Subs Not Used: Matthews, Vela, Noone, Hobbs
Booked: Wilson
Goals: Ameobi 33, O'Neil 65

Rotherham United: Rodak, Vyner, Ajayi, Robertson, Mattock, Forde (Williams 66), Towell, Vaulks, Newell (Taylor 74), Smith, Proctor (Wiles 83)
Subs Not Used: Price, Wood, Manning, Raggett
Booked: Robertson
Goals: Vaulks 37

Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Attendance: 15,255

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