Bolton Wanderers suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Leeds United at the Reebok Stadium.
Luke Varney’s header in the sixth minute was enough for the Yorkshire outfit to claim all three points despite a tirade of pressure from Wanderers throughout the game, with David Ngog enjoying the best opportunities to draw the Whites level.
Manager Dougie Freedman made a number of changes to the side that lined up against Blackburn Rovers prior to the international break with the inclusion of Matt Mills, Marc Tierney, Chris Eagles and Tim Ream, while former Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford was amongst the substitutes for the Whites.
The opening stages of the clash were evenly contested with both sides enjoying possession of the ball, with the most notable chance of the game going to Darren Pratley whose looping header was calmly collected by Paddy Kenny.
With virtually Leeds’ first attack of the match however, Varney planted a glancing header into the net from close range after connecting with Luke Murphy’s corner kick in the sixth minute.
Buoyed by their goal, United were clearly brimming with confidence as Rodolph Austin fired an audacious effort towards Adam Bogdan in the Bolton goal, but the Hungarian was equal to his effort.
Having gotten over the initial shock of the visitors’ goal, Chris Eagles almost had the Whites back on level terms in the ninth minute as he unleashed a scorching shot from distance, but the ball flew just wide of the post.
Ngog looked to have taken the ball too far just moments later as he was forced to the by-line, but the striker still managed to get a shot on, albeit one which trickled harmlessly wide of Kenny’s far post.
The Frenchman looked certain to score immediately after as Darren Pratley found him in space in the area after capitalising on a mistake by Murphy, but he lost his footing and was consequently penalised for handball.
After a frantic opening 15 minutes the tempo of the game dropped slightly, with chances at a premium, but Varney almost doubled his tally with a quarter of the game gone as he saw his goal-bound shot take a deflection out for a corner.
As the clash wore on, the pressure grew from Wanderers’ frontline and their hard work was almost rewarded on the half hour mark as a man-marked Ngog laid the ball off for the incoming Pratley, but the midfielder failed to keep his shot on target as the ball flew harmlessly wide of the post.
With the Whites seemingly growing in confidence a goalmouth scramble ensued, with Chung-Yong Lee and Ngog trying and failing with their respective headers on goal.
Having withstood a tirade of Bolton attacks, Leeds almost snatched a second in the 34th minute on the counter attack as Ross McCormack received the ball just outside the area, but the striker couldn’t keep his shot down.
Ngog was again at the heart of the action soon after as Jay Spearing’s long range effort hit him on the calf, but the Wanderers’ number nine was denied by some last ditch Leeds defending.
Leeds went close yet again in the 38th minute as Noel Hunt and McCormack combined well in a two-man attack on the Bolton goal, but former saw his shot fly just wide of the upright.
Varney went within inches of doubling the visitors’ advantage on the stroke of half time as McCormack capitalised on a mistake from Tim Ream in the middle of the field, but he failed to test Bogdan as he drove his shot wide of the far post.
With no changes at break for either side, the second period began with half chances for both teams, but neither goalkeeper was really tested inside the opening stages.
Eagles looked set to unleash a shot on goal in the 52nd minute after good work from Lee outside the area, but the winger was denied by a crowd of Leeds bodies and saw his shot deflect away.
Having looked menacing on the counter all game, Brian McDermott’s men pushed in search of a killer second, but their attempts were fruitless as the Whites’ defence.
Freedman introduced Beckford into the fold on the hour mark as Wanderers went all out for an equaliser, with the Jamaican international replacing Zat Knight as Tim Ream moved into the heart of defence.
With the Whites now boasting a two-man front line, Ngog almost drew the home side level moments after the substitution after a mazy run into the box, but a lack of control saw Kenny scoop the ball to safety.
Varney, a thorn in Wanderers’ side all afternoon, was testing Bogdan yet again soon after, but his tame shot was easily collected by the Bolton keeper.
Rob Hall was thrown into the mix shortly afterwards and the decision almost paid immediate dividends as he made a powerful run into the area and went down, but his claims for a penalty were waved away, while Beckford had a number of opportunities from close range.
It seemed that a second goal in the clash was imminent, although to which side it would go to was difficult to predict as both sides enjoying chances in what was fast becoming an end to end game.
Ngog looked to have drawn the Whites level with eight minutes to go after a superb run down the wing from Tierney, but the forward’s shot flew a matter of inches past Kenny’s post.
That chance was to be Tierney’s last act as Medo was brought into the fold in place of the Wanderers’ full-back, with the latter almost making an instant impact with a long distance effort that drifted just wide, whilst Pratley also tried his luck from 25 yards.
With the clock ticking down, Freedman’s men pushed in search of a goal with Ngog firing narrowly wide as the fourth official indicated that there would be five minutes of additional time.
Pratley almost earned the Whites a point in the second minute of stoppage time with his shot from distance, but Kenny was equal to it as he pushed the ball around the post.
Despite a late rally however, it was ultimately in vain as Leeds held out for the victory.