Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Middlesbrough

  • April 09, 2019 | By Chris Mann
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Ashley Fletcher put another nail in the coffin of Bolton, scoring a brace on his return to a club whose relegation could be confirmed as soon as the weekend.

Fletcher, who spent four years with the Wanderers academy between the ages of nine and 13, scored twice inside the opening half-hour at the University of Bolton Stadium as Middlesbrough ended a run of six consecutive defeats with a routine victory that keeps their play-off hopes alive.

Bolton managed just two shots on target all evening, the first of which arrived with two minutes left to play, moments before Sammy Ameobi saw a goalbound effort tipped onto the crossbar by Darren Randolph.

Having seen his side slump to defeat against Ipswich Town on Saturday, Trotters boss Phil Parkinson made three changes to his line-up as Andrew Taylor, Callum Connolly and Will Buckley were replaced by Marc Wilson, Luca Connell and Craig Noone, as they set up in a 3-5-2 formation.

After Britt Assombalonga was thwarted twice by David Wheater inside the opening five minutes, the first chance of the evening fell the way of Fletcher, whose long-range effort flew over Remi Matthews' crossbar with 10 minutes on the clock.

Jonny Howson was next to try his luck for the visitors, seeing a shot deflect behind off Wheater, but the deadlock was broken on 16 minutes as Fletcher took advantage of some poor defending in the Wanderers backline.

A misplaced pass from Josh Magennis put Wilson in trouble, allowing Assombalonga to pounce. After racing into the Bolton box, his shot deflected off Wheater and into the path of Fletcher, who took the ball on his chest before slotting calmly beyond Matthews at his near post.

Assombalonga tried to double the advantage on 25 minutes, only to see his shot charged down by Beevers, but it was to be 2-0 just three minutes later as Fletcher found the net for a second time.

Muhamed Besic received possession just inside the Bolton half and immediately set off on a run towards the penalty area. With Wilson and Connell narrowing the angle, Besic laid the ball off for Fletcher to dink over Matthews and into the far corner.

Fletcher then came within inches of a hat-trick, only to see his bending effort from 25 yards clip the outside of the post with just 32 minutes played.

He was then denied by Matthews, with the Boro forward intent on rubbing salt into the wounds of his former side, while one final chance before the break saw the Wanderers goalkeeper raise an arm to make an outstanding save as Fletcher looked to bend one into the top corner.

There were no changes to either side as the players returned for the second-half, which began with Beevers sending a header over the top as he got on the end of a corner from Gary O'Neil.

Assombalonga should have made it 3-0 to Boro shortly before the hour, racing clean through on goal before sending a lobbed effort over the bar.

Howson was next to register an attempt on goal, with Matthews pushing away his deflected set-piece, after which chances were at a premium as the visitors soaked up the minimal pressure being placed upon them.

Wheater saw a header blocked by a host of bodies as the game entered the final five minutes, before the hosts' best chance arrived in the final minute of normal time as Ameobi pounced on a wayward strike from Erhun Oztumer before seeing a goalbound effort superbly tipped onto the crossbar by Randolph.

Three minutes of stoppage time passed by without incident, as Wanderers slipped to defeat which leave them eight points from safety with just five games left to play.

Should results elsewhere go against them on Wednesday, Bolton's impending relegation to League One could be confirmed as early as Saturday - when they face Derby County at Pride Park.

Bolton Wanderers: Matthews, Noone, Beevers, Wheater, Wilson, Olkowski, J Williams (Oztumer 72), Connell (Connolly 82), O'Neil, Ameobi, Magennis
Subs Not Used: Alnwick, Little, Taylor, Donaldson, Buckley

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Ayala, Flint, Fry, Shotton, Besic (Clayton 86), Mikel, Saville, Howson, Fletcher, Assombalonga (Tavernier 90+1)
Subs Not Used: Konstantopoulos, Hugill, McNair, Downing, Gestede
Goals: Fletcher 16,28

Referee: Steve Martin
Attendance: 12,259

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
15 Shrewsbury Town 26 30
16 Cambridge United 25 30
17 Bolton Wanderers 25 29
18 Lincoln City 25 28
19 Fleetwood Town 25 28
View Full Standings >>


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