Wanderers booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over local rivals Wigan Athletic at Macron Stadium.
Zach Clough made it a debut to remember as his effort in the 76th minute ensured the Whites’ passage into the next round of the competition, with the 19-year-old receiving a deserved standing ovation as he was replaced by Eidur Gudjohnsen late on.
Wanderers’ starting XI boasted the inclusion of academy graduate Zach Clough who made his first team debut, while Adam Bogdan and Emile Heskey also came in from the off for the Whites.
On the opposing side, Ali Al-Habsi turned out against his former employers for the Latics having previously spent five seasons with Bolton in the mid to late 00s.
Wanderers started brightly as Heskey found the feet of Feeney inside the opening 60 seconds with the winger in space on the edge of the box, but he was ultimately muscled out just as he was about to unleash on goal.
Feeney was again in the midst of the madness shortly after, turning his man before whipping the ball across goal, only for Al-Habsi’s outstretched palm to deny the air-borne Heskey from close range.
Yet again with nine minutes gone, Feeney was proving too hot to handle as he collected Liam Trotter’s clever through ball to find himself in on goal with only the keeper to beat, but the heroics of the Wigan shot-stopper denied him the opening goal of the game.
The Whites’ pressure continued, and they looked to have broken the deadlock in the 13th minute as Feeney found Clough at the far post, whose header was parried by Al-Habsi into the feet of Trotter who slammed home, but the assistant referee had already deemed the former to be offside.
Having found themselves under pressure from the outset, Wigan were visibly struggling to contain a Bolton side high on confidence with David Wheater next to try his luck, seeing his header from a Tim Ream corner fly narrowly wide of the upright.
The visitors had barely troubled Bogdan in the Bolton goal, and with Wanderers pushing forward in their numbers, Al-Habsi was again called upon to turn Trotter’s thunderous header around the post on the half hour mark.
Clough, a constant thorn in the side of the Latics’ defence, found Feeney with a wonderfully placed through ball in the 34th minute, but a combination of the keeper and two Wigan players saw his shot blocked from just inside the box.
As the clock ran down to the break, Malky Mackay’s side did come out of their shells slightly but were still unable to really test Bogdan with any meaningful efforts as the referee blew for half time.
The second half started in a similar vein to that of the first, with Clough’s mazy run and consequent goalbound effort in the 49th minute taking a deflection with Macron Stadium ready to celebrate a debut goal for the youngster.
The chance appeared to bring the game to life somewhat, with Wigan scurrying forward in the aftermath in a bid to open the scoring themselves with Bogdan tipping Adam Forshaw’s powerful header onto the crossbar from a matter of yards out.
The Whites were right back up the other end of the pitch however, with Pratley’s cross into the feet of Heskey narrowly failing to be converted by the frontman while Clough again tried his luck from distance, only to be denied by the hand of Al-Habsi.
James Tavernier squandered a glorious opportunity to hand Wigan the lead on the hour mark as he failed to capitalise on a lapse in concentration at the back, while Heskey, Clough and Pratley came close in quick succession for the Whites moments later.
The introduction of Craig Davies on his return from injury shortly after in place of Heskey signalled Wanderers’ intent in the clash, with the forward straight back into the thick of the action as Bolton continued their attack on the Wigan goal.
The visitors themselves were certainly proving themselves a threat on the counter, though Neil Lennon’s side were the team in the ascendancy as the game entered its final 20 minutes.
Having been introduced as a second half substitute, Craig Davies almost made the perfect mark on the game as Clough found the striker on the right flank, with his consequent ball into the box taking a deflection and forcing Al-Habsi into a smart save to keep it out of the net.
Having laid siege on the Wigan goal throughout though, Wanderers finally broke the deadlock and it fell to Clough who collected Trotter’s through-ball and chipped the ball over the advancing Al-Habsi for a debut goal to send Macron Stadium into raptures with 14 minutes remaining.
No more than Bolton deserved given their efforts throughout, Wigan were almost back on level terms just two minutes later as James McClean saw his angled drive pushed around the near post by Bogdan.
As the clock ran down to full time, Clough was given a deserved standing ovation with two minutes remaining as he was replaced by Eidur Gudjohnsen, while Feeney ghosted past the Wigan defence but was unable to keep the ball down.
With four minutes of added time indicated, there was just enough time for Wigan to test Bogdan again as Shaun Maloney’s free-kick was tipped over the bar by the Bolton keeper, but their efforts were in vain as Wanderers held out to progress.