Chris Lester’s strike ensured that Wanderers’ development squad finished their pre-season campaign unbeaten with a 2-1 victory over Stockport County at Edgeley Park.
Despite coming up against an experienced County side, Jamie Fullarton’s men took the lead through Conor Wilkinson before Kristian Dennis pulled the hosts level from close range.
Not to be deterred however, the Whites restored the lead shortly before half time through the winger and withstood a late rally from the Hatters to secure the win.
Wanderers had started the game brightly with Hayden White playing the ball into the path of Wilkinson inside the opening 20 seconds of the clash, but the young striker was just short as County keeper Lewis King scooped the ball to safety.
The pair combined well again just minutes later as White powered down the right flank before unleashing a dangerous ball across the face of goal, but Wilkinson was to be denied by some last ditch Stockport defending.
With confidence high, Andy Kellett almost broke the deadlock in the seventh minute after an impressive run from the half way line, but the full-back’s shot was blocked and cleared away.
Having withstood a tirade of Bolton pressure inside the opening stages, County almost hit back emphatically as Kayde Coppin found himself in space outside the area and unleashed a curling shot goal bound, but the winger saw the ball fizz past the post.
Wanderers weren’t to be denied though, and their patience paid dividends in the 15th minute as Michael O’Halloran played the ball into the feet of the unmarked Wilkinson who drilled the ball home from just inside the area.
It was no more than Bolton deserved, but the Whites were dealt a cruel blow just four minutes later as Jay Lynch spilled Ian Craney’s powerful shot, allowing Dennis to pounce and fire home his ninth goal of the Hatters’ pre-season campaign.
Having broken Wanderers’ resistance, the home side began to grow in confidence, Kyle Jacobs just one of a number of players who were keen to test their luck from distance after their somewhat fortuitous equaliser.
After regaining their composure, Bolton almost stunned Stockport shortly before the half hour mark as Lester unleashed from just outside the area, but the winger’s shot took a deflection before skimming past the post.
Both sides looked dangerous on the break and Aman Verma looked to have given County the lead moments later as he delicately chipped the ball over the Bolton defence, but Lynch was on hand to tip the ball over the crossbar and keep Wanderers on level terms.
Despite Stockport’s best efforts however, it was to be Bolton who would take the lead five minutes before half time through the ever threatening Lester who calmly fired home past the advancing King in the County goal.
Having finished the first half on the back foot, the Hatters almost drew themselves level seconds after the restart as Craney swung his free-kick into the area, but the ball somehow eluded a crowd of bodies that had congregated in Wanderers’ six-yard-box.
The Whites were calling for a penalty moments later as Wilkinson was bundled over in the area, but the referee was unmoved by the claims and waved play on, much to the dismay of the Bolton team and bench.
After proving himself to be a nuisance in the first half, Coppin went within inches of drawing Stockport level in the 52nd minute as he attempted to play the ball into the path of the advancing Verma, but the ball drifted across the face of goal and out for a goal kick.
Tom Youngs looked set to extend Wanderers’ lead on the hour mark after an impressive run from midfield, but the striker was hacked down and Bolton awarded a free-kick which James Kelly proceeded to fire directly at King.
Jamie Hand was next to test Lynch through a crowded penalty area, but the Bolton keeper did well to react quickly, while Verma looked certain to bring County level after connecting with Phil Jevons’ cross, but the midfielder somehow headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
Rhys Turner had the Stockport faithful on their feet ready to celebrate an equaliser moments later as he turned on the half volley and unleashed his shot, but Lynch was to receive the plaudits for an exceptional reflex save as he punched the ball away.
Despite finding themselves under a tirade of County attacks inside the final quarter of the game, the Bolton defence stood firm against a dangerous Stockport strike force.
Substitutes Brandon Windsor and Jordan Fagbola both went close to an equaliser late on as the hosts piled on the pressure, but it was ultimately in vain as the Whites held out for the victory.
Fullarton’s side will be hoping to continue their fine form into the competitive season when they kick off their league campaign against Sunderland next Monday afternoon.
Stockport County: King, Jacobs, O'Halloran (Fagbola, 57), Hand, Tunnicliffe, Charnock, Coppin (Bateman, 65), Verma, Dennis (Windsor, 75), Craney; (Turner, 65), Howard (Lama, 46)
Subs not used: Ormson
Wanderers: Lynch, Threlkeld, Holding, Kellett, White, Kelly, Gregus, Lester (Clough, 67), Youngs, Wilkinson, O'Halloran (Hamer, 67)
Subs not used: Campbell, Bailey, Ball