Bolton Wanderers under-18s progressed to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup after battling to well-deserved victory over Portsmouth at the Reebok Stadium on Monday night.
A late goal from Georg Iliev secured the win for the Whites after Robert Holding’s early strike was cancelled out by Portsmouth defender Adam Webster.
Wanderers began the game with plenty of attacking intent and this paid dividends after just five minutes when they broke the deadlock.
Tom Walker curled a dangerous free-kick towards goal that goalkeeper Connor O’Hara failed to control, before Holding immediately reacted and fired in the opener from close range.
The ferocious pace of the game didn’t subside as the visitors fought back to level matters through a free-kick of their own in the 12th minute.
Bradley Tarbuck whipped the set-piece towards the far post before seeing it met by the towering defender Webster who nodded into the far corner.
Following the equaliser, there were few clear chances for either side until a flurry of attempts arrived around the half-hour mark.
The first of which fell to Bolton after Walker’s cross unexpectedly found its way through the legs of several Pompey defenders and to the feet of Luke Woodland on the edge of the area. Under pressure, the youngster dragged a rushed effort inches wide.
Shortly after, Portsmouth came even closer to snatching a second goal through another headed attempt.
Webster’s cross found Jack Maloney at the far post and the striker’s header looked destined for the corner of the net until Jan-Ole Sievers leapt across to tip the ball onto the post and away to safety.
The intense battle for the third goal of the game continued as Wanderers came agonisingly close to regaining the lead minutes later.
Elliot Newby laid the ball across to Iliev who cut inside from the right flank and drilled a rasping drive that flashed just wide of the post.
The early stages of the second half failed to emulate the velocity of the first, despite an attempt from the visitors less than a minute after the restart when Ben Close fired an audacious 25-yard effort over the crossbar.
That was the first and last clear attempt of the half for Portsmouth as the Whites dominated proceedings.
Just after the hour mark Niall Maher headed a corner towards goal that was half-cleared and fell to Woodland 14 yards from goal, but the midfielder could only muster a scuffed shot straight into the hands of O’Hara.
20 minutes from time, Dylan Wolstenholme nearly put the home side ahead in impressive fashion. The youngster went on a mazy solo run before hitting a powerful shot that rose just above the crossbar.
With ten minutes remaining, Wanderers finally got the breakthrough that they deserved.
Iliev showed his predatory instincts as he dashed to meet a cross from the right flank, using the pace of the pass to flick the ball over O’Hara and into the far corner of the net from an acute angle.
Bolton were unlucky not to compound Pompey’s misery in the dying moments of the game through Woodland.
As he ran towards goal, Portsmouth defenders backed off allowing him space to hit a fierce attempt that rocketed painfully close to the bottom corner.
That was the last meaningful action of the match before the referee called time on an emphatic performance from the under-18s.
Wanderers:Jan-Ole Sievers, Maher, Gibson, Holding, Bailey, Woodland, Newby (Lester 56), Wolstenholme, Clough, Iliev, Walker (Unused subs: Youngs, Campbell, Hendrie, Torres)
Portsmouth: O’Hara, Webster, Triggs, Awford, Warren, Whatmough, Tarbuck, Branford, Horsburgh (Hartson 67), Close (Heon-Kim 79), Maloney (Medway 62) (Unused subs: Tarasenko)