Bolton Wanderers 3-0 Doncaster Rovers

  • November 20, 2021 | By Chris Mann
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Bolton did their talking on the pitch on Tuesday evening as they brushed aside Doncaster Rovers with a 3-0 victory at the University of Bolton Stadium.

All the pre-match build focused on the depleted nature of Ian Evatt's squad and how he had just 13 senior outfield players to select from, but that mattered little once they crossed the white line and those who took to the pitch did so with a perfect response.

Eoin Doyle, back in the side after three matches out with a calf injury, opened the scoring eight minutes before the break, before Elias Kachunga doubled the advantage in first-half stoppage time.

George Thomason bundled home a third shortly before the hour - a goal which may later be credited as an own-goal - but it will take a brave person to deny the 20-year-old a first home strike on a night where Wanderers proved they are more than capable of holding their own in the third tier, regardless of whether they are at full strength or not.

Having lost both Alex Baptiste and MJ Williams to injury in Saturday's defeat at Wycombe Wanderers, Evatt made two enforced changes as their places were filled by Liam Gordon and the returning Doyle.

Gordon's inclusion in the unfamiliar right-back role allowed Lloyd Isgrove to be utilised in midfield, as he linked up with Oladapo Afolayan, Kachunga and Doyle in the attacking positions.

With players taking time to settle into their new roles, it perhaps came as little surprise to see Doncaster start on the front foot as Ethan Galbraith flashed a warning shot wide inside the opening two minutes.

Joel Dixon was called into action soon thereafter, denying Matt Smith after he had been teed up by Aidan Barlow, before Wanderers' first sight of goal arrived when Declan John whipped a free-kick narrowly over the crossbar with 18 minutes played.

Rovers were back on the attack as the clock approached the midway point of the half, with Jon Taylor cutting in from the left before firing over, shortly before former Trotters forward Joe Dodoo broke free and squared to Taylor, who fired high and wide when presented with a one-on-one opportunity with Dixon.

Bolton were forced into their first change just after the half-hour as George Johnston entered the midfield in place of the hamstrung Isgrove - a move which saw Kieran Lee drift out wide to the left and Afolayan utilised in a more predominant right-sided position.

It was a switch that seemed to work for the hosts and they broke the deadlock on 37 minutes as Gordon's played the ball into the path of Kachunga. After twisting and turning on the edge of the Doncaster box, his strike across the face of goal looked set to roll behind, only for Doyle to pounce at the far post and slide past Louis Jones from close range.

Afolayan was booked a little over 60 seconds after play had a resumed - a yellow card that will rule him out of the weekend clash with Cheltenham Town - and he was on the receiving end of a challenge from Joe Olowu on 43 minutes that would see the Rovers defender issued a straight-red by referee Stephen Martin.

The Trotters quickly set about using their extra man to their advantage and came close to doubling their lead when Kachunga saw a goalbound shot blocked by Tommy Rowe in the third minute of added time, but he wasn't to be denied with his next attempt as the hosts moved into a 2-0 lead.

Afolayan was afforded too much time on the right-hand side and after working his way into the area, his drive across the face of goal was tapped in by Kachunga to send the home supporters down for their half-time refreshments safe in the knowledge that their side were holding a two-goal advantage.

There were no changes as the players returned for the second period, which began with Branden Horton springing the offside trap, only for Dixon to come rushing off his line to make a vital interception.

Kachunga should have made it three on 52 minutes but couldn't keep his header down from a Thomason cross, moments before Ricardo Almeida Santos curled a first-time effort inches wide of Jones' post after Doncaster had failed to deal with Lee's trickery inside the box.

It was three shortly before the hour, though, as John found himself in an advanced position and squared for Thomason, whose strike appeared to be heading wide before taking a deflection off Horton that saw the ball loop up and into the net beyond a stranded Jones.

Knowing he will likely be without both Isgrove and Afolayan at the weekend, Evatt used the 3-0 lead as an opportunity to hand a rest to Doyle - introducing Xavier Amaechi for the final half-hour.

Gordon then came close to opening his goalscoring account on two separate occasions, first seeing a goalbound strike blocked at close quarters, before seeing another effort shortly afterwards parried away by Jones.

Kachunga was next to try his luck in a move similar to the goal he struck at Stockport County in the Emirates FA Cup, drifting in from the left and sprinting away from two defenders before seeing his drive flash narrowly wide of the far post.

Jones was on hand to tip a shot from John over the top with less than 10 minutes to play, shortly before Amaechi curled a free-kick inches over the crossbar with the goalkeeper scrambling to his left.

Substitute Nathan Delfouneso clipped an effort over whilst under pressure in the latter stages but Wanderers left the field at full-time good value for the nature of their three-goal victory.

With just 11 senior outfield options available for their weekend fixture with Cheltenham, attention will now turn to recovery and assessing who may be able to play through the pain barrier - with some five-and-a-half weeks still to go until the opening of the transfer window.

Bolton Wanderers: Dixon, John, Santos, Aimson, Gordon, Lee (Delfouneso 71), Thomason, Afolayan, Kachunga, Isgrove (Johnston 31), Doyle (Amaechi 59)
Subs Not Used: Gilks, Henry, Pettifer
Booked: Afolayan
Goals: Doyle 37, Kachunga 45+4, Thomason 57

Doncaster Rovers: Jones, Knoyle, Anderson, Olowu, Horton, Smith, Galbraith, Taylor (Cukur 67), Rowe, Barlow, Dodoo
Subs Not Used: Dahlberg, Hasani, Blythe, Ravenhill, Kuleya, Fulkner
Sent Off: Olowu

Referee: Stephen Martin
Attendance: 12,501

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