Zach Clough's seventh goal of the season proved to be enough as Bolton Wanderers recorded their third consecutive win and clean sheet to beat a plucky Northampton Town at Sixfields.
The Wanderers front man’s first half strike illustrated his team’s dominance during the opening half.
Town bounced back after the break to make life difficult for Phil Parkinson’s men in the latter stages of the game, but the Trotters' resilience ultimately ensured that the three points were theirs come full time.
Wanderers were unchanged from the team that beat Coventry City in midweek with Tom Thorpe retaining his place in midfield after coming in for the suspended Liam Trotter. Derik continued alongside Mark Beevers at centre half while David Wheater continues his recovery from a back problem.
Former Wanderers midfielder Matt Taylor lined up against his former employers.
Over 1,200 Wanderers fans made it down from Bolton and were in fine voice as the game kicked off.
In form Clough showed his threat early on with a probing foray in the Northampton penalty area but he overran despite a back tracking home defence.
After an ineffectual opening, David Cornell made the game’s first save after eight minutes when he got to a Sammy Ameobi half-volley. The chance was well struck but went straight to the Town ‘keeper.
Matt Taylor almost put the hosts in front just moments later when he steered a cross from the left on to Ben Alnwick’s right hand post. Wanderers responded by charging back up the field to put pressure on Cornell, which culminated in Spearing volleying over from distance after Ameobi’s probing had Town on the backfoot.
Wanderers were slick with their passing and a ball out from Derik found Clough, who span around to feed Andrew Taylor on the left. His ball back into the danger area found Vela. He shaped up to curl it into the top corner only to be charged down.
Despite their attacking prominence, Wanderers had to be on their guard. Sam Hoskins tested Alnwick from distance, but it was a regulation save for the ‘keeper.
The goal game from that man Clough. It was such a composed finished from the frontman who latched onto Ameobi’s through ball. With the giant frame of Cornell advancing at a rapid rate to narrow the angle, Clough steered home to break the deadlock.
The goal spurred Wanderers on and they began to look increasingly dangerous every time they went into the final third. Ameobi and Clough linked up superbly well once again to find Taylor charging down the left. The full back put in a tasty looking cross which was ultimately cleared.
Clough was a constant menace for Town. If he wasn’t running in from deep, he was hanging around on the edge of the box. On one occasion he acrobatically latched on to an Ameobi centre, only to see the effort go wide.
Seeking to get back into the contest, Town started the second half much brighter than the visitors. Although Alnwick wasn’t really tested, his defenders had to have their wits about them.
Wanderers earned a corner after Spearing’s powerful drive cannoned off a Town defender right in front of the superbly vociferous Wanderers’ supporters.,
Again, the action return to the other end and on a better day Town would have equalised. Wanderers failed to sufficiently clear a corner, and fortunately Derik was in the way to keep out Paul Anderson’s drive.
The hosts thought they had equalised on 66 minutes when O’Toole had out the ball beyond Alwick. However, the linesman had his flag up early and the effort was ruled out for an infringement.
The incident served as a wake-up call for Wanderers who had allowed their opponents to get back into the contest. Town were playing with a new found confidence and Phil Parkinson’s men badly needed a second goal.
With 20 minutes remaining, Parkinson brought on Henry for Ameobi to bring some fresh mpetus for Wanderers as an attacking force. Proctor, ten minutes later, came on for Gary Madine.
With time petering out, Wanderers held firm – despite an agonising five minutes of additional time - to record their third consecutive win and clean sheet.