Cheltenham Town 0-3 Bolton Wanderers

  • August 12, 2023 | By Chris Mann
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A dominant first-half display helped Bolton to a 3-0 win at Cheltenham Town, handing them their best start to a campaign in 40 years.

Dion Charles scored either side of an own-goal from Liam Smith as Wanderers took a three-goal advantage into the interval at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium, a scoreline which would remain until the final whistle as Ian Evatt's side moved to the top of the early League One table.

Indeed, it marked the first time the Trotters had won their three opening fixtures in all competitions since 2001, whilst they have also done so without conceding a single goal for the first time since the 1983/84 campaign.

Having made eight changes to his team for the midweek victory over Barrow in the Carabao Cup, Evatt reverted back to the same side that started against Lincoln City on the opening day.

Wanderers put three past the Imps on that occasion, with their success largely coming as a result of set-pieces and an own-goal.

Naming that same team proved to be the correct decision from the off as the visitors quickly assumed control in the early stages, as both Kyle Dempsey and Jack Iredale enjoyed relative success in the final third.

Cheltenham's first venture into opposition territory arrived on 13 minutes but the threat of Robert Street was nullified by Jack Iredale, moments before the deadlock was broken at the other end.

Josh Sheehan was presented with too much time and space midway inside the Robins half. His ball into the edge of the area was turned around the corner by Victor Adeboyejo, allowing Charles to run in and slot beyond Luke Southwood.

Bolton could smell blood and quickly went in search of a second, which almost arrived four minutes later as Dempsey cut inside from the left and curled a shot inches wide of the far post.

The advantage was doubled on the half-hour, though, as Wanderers were awarded a free-kick after Adeboyejo was fouled by Curtis Davies, who went into the referee's book for his troubles.

Aaron Morley stood over the resulting set-piece, which was delivered to the near post and flicked into the net. Dempsey was initially credited with the goal, but it would later go down as an own-goal by Smith.

It was 3-0 just three minutes later as the visitors were at their clinical best - Davies failing to clear a flick into the box from Dempsey, allowing Charles to pounce and bend a delightful effort into the corner past Southwood.

Charles could, arguably, have completed a first-half hat-trick from the next attack, combining with Adeboyejo 20 yards from goal before seeing a left-footed effort saved down low by the goalkeeper.

Randell Williams headed over from a Josh Dacres-Cogley cross in the closing stages of the half, which ended with the away side in complete control.

No substitutions were made by either manager at the start of the second-half, which started in similar fashion as Bolton quickly got the upper hand.

With two own-goals to their name from the opening two league games, it's fair to say luck has been on the side of the Whites. That almost showed again seven minutes after the restart as a wayward cross from Iredale looped up and over Southwood, before bouncing back off the crossbar.

Southwood would have gained a measure of confidence four minutes later when he got down low to save from Morley, shortly before two incidents in the space of three minutes put a slight downer on the visitors' afternoon.

First, Adeboyejo was booked for delaying the taking of a Cheltenham throw-in, moments before Evatt was cautioned by referee David Rock as he protested against a couple of challenges on his defenders.

Back to the action itself, Bolton continued to push forward in search of further goals and came through on two occasions through Dacres-Cogley and Morley, while Dempsey stung the gloves of Southwood as the clock reached the midway point of the half.

A break in play to allow Town substitute James Olayinka - who would be replaced shortly thereafter - time to receive treatment, afforded Evatt the chance to make a double change of his own as Paris Maghoma and former Robins loanee Dan Nlundulu came on in place of Dempsey and Adeboyejo.

After two games and a further 79 minutes of restricting opposing teams to zero shots on their own goal, Bolton's defence was finally breached when Lewis Freestone rose to meet a corner, but Nathan Baxter was quick to react as he turned the goalbound header over the bar.

Baxter made another stop inside seven minutes of added time, coming off his line to tip Street's effort wide, but it would only have proved consolation for the hosts in any event as the final whistle called time on another outstanding afternoon for the away side.

With a maximum return of six points thus far, Bolton end a matchday on top of a league table for the first time since September 10, 2016, when they led the League One standings with 15 points from their opening seven games - a campaign in which they would ultimately secure automatic promotion as runners-up to Sheffield United.

Evatt's side will look to extend that run this coming Tuesday, when Fleetwood Town are the latest visitors to the Toughsheet Community Stadium.

Cheltenham Town: Southwood, Long, Davies, Freestone, Smith, Sercombe, Thompson (Olayinka 61 (Ferry 70)), Hammond, Williams (Goodwin 78), Street, Keena
Subs Not Used: Harris, Bradbury, Adshead, Chapman
Booked: Davies, Smith

Bolton Wanderers: Baxter, Iredale, Santos, Jones, Williams, Morley (Mendes Gomes 80), Sheehan (Thomason 80), Dacres-Cogley, Dempsey (Maghoma 73), Adeboyejo (Nlundulu 73), Charles (Jerome 81)
Subs Not Used: Forrester, Ashworth
Booked: Adeboyejo
Goals: Charles 15,33, Smith 30 (og)

Referee: David Rock
Attendance: 4,898

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
1 Bolton Wanderers 18 39
2 Portsmouth 18 39
3 Oxford United 18 36
4 Stevenage 20 36
5 Peterborough United 19 35
View Full Standings >>


Who is Bolton's 2022/23 Player of the Year?
25.9% Conor Bradley
22.3% James Trafford
20.09% Dion Charles
10.05% Kyle Dempsey
6.82% Aaron Morley
6.45% Ricardo Almeida Santos
3.5% George Johnston
3.32% Eoin Toal
1.01% Kieran Lee
0.55% Gethin Jones