First teamers Tim Ream, Joe Riley and Gregg Wylde all gained valuable playing time in the under-21 development squad’s slender Manchester FA Senior Cup defeat at Stockport County on Wednesday evening.
Goals in the first half from Craig Hobson and Alex Meaney were enough to seal the victory for the home side, with a late goal from Joe Riley only a consolation for Bolton, in a game in which the recently released club legend Ricardo Gardner was also involved.
Wanderers were unlucky not to break the deadlock as early as the ninth minute after a penetrating ball from Chris Lester was nearly turned into the Stockport net.
The lively winger raced down the right flank before drilling a dangerous pass across the six-yard box, much to County’s relief the ball was deflected straight into the hands of goalkeeper Ian Ormson.
The Whites continued to cause problems for Stockport in the early stages of the match and would have been rewarded for their impressive opening had it not been for some quality goalkeeping.
A defence-splitting pass from Riley allowed Jack Sampson space in behind the County defence, his inventive shot on the outside of his foot was palmed away by Ormson in the 14th minute.
Ten minutes later Stockport created an opportunity of their own. Kyle Brownhill received possession from a throw-in deep into Bolton’s half, the left-back weaved his way into the area before firing a rasping shot that flashed across the face of the goal and away to safety.
County opened the scoring in the 27th minute after composed play from attacking pair Hobson and Meaney.
Meaney received the ball 30 yards from goal and was closed down quickly by the Whites defence but the playmaker cleverly slid the ball through the backline into the path of Hobson. The towering frontman didn’t panic under pressure from goalkeeper Jay Lynch and calmly slotted into the corner to make it 1-0.
Stockport were handed the perfect opportunity to extend their lead in the 34th minute when Niall Maher was judged to have brought down Tom Collins in the area for a penalty. Meaney, who’d provided the first goal, got his own name on the scoresheet when he sent Lynch the wrong way and side-footed the spot-kick into the bottom-right corner.
Wanderers were unfortunate not to find the net themselves in the latter stages of the first half when two chances came their way.
The Whites nearly reduced the home side’s lead three minutes after the second goal after some poor goalkeeping from Ormson.
Ormson attempted to catch Lester’s cross from the right wing but completely misjudged the ball as he failed to make contact, Wylde did well to react and head the ball from the back post but his effort flew just wide.
Wanderers were awarded an indirect free-kick six yards from goal after County were guilty of a back-pass. Sampson teed up defender Riley who hit a powerful drive that was well-blocked at point-blank range by Ormson.
The beginning of the second period saw Bolton continue in the same style that they finished the first, creating chances.
In the 50th minute, Wylde received the ball in plenty of space down the left wing before surging towards goal. Unfortunately for Wanderers the winger dragged his effort just wide of the net.
The Whites’ slightly unlucky streak continued in the 62nd minute where the visitors could have had a penalty.
The energetic Riley burst into the area before being blatantly brought down, referee Anthony Moore waved play on – a decision that cleared frustrated Riley and his teammates.
As the game drew nearer to a close both teams found themselves locked in a constant midfield battle with very little opportunities for either side, although Bolton did manage to find the breakthrough that they deserved in the 89th minute.
Wanderers were awarded a free-kick 30 yards from goal and substitute Adam Blakeman elected himself to take the set-piece on this occasion.
The midfielder hit a curling shot that goalkeeper Ormson couldn’t get anywhere near to as the ball crashed against the post, right-back Riley was so rapid in reacting as he was first to hit the rebound into a gaping net to make it 2-1.
Riley’s goal ensured that there was a tense finish to the encounter but unfortunately for Bolton it was too late to complete a comeback.
Stockport County:Ormson, Halls (Rothwell 70), Brownhill, Graham, Say, Holden, Collins, Nolan, Hobson (Darkwah 45), Meaney (Turner 45), Purcell
Wanderers: Lynch, Riley, Kellet, Ream (Dennis 45), Threlkeld, Gardner (Blakeman 45), Lester, Maher, Odelusi, Sampson (McKee 74), Wylde (Unused substitutes: Eaves, Fielding)