An impressive Bolton Wanderers’ under-21 side were harshly beaten in their league clash against West Ham United at the County Ground on Monday night.
Jordan Spence’s goal in the second half was enough to separate the sides in a match where Bolton had three attempts cleared off the line.
First-team players Zat Knight, fielded as an eligible overage player, and Marcos Alonso featured for the Whites and lasted the entire 90 minutes.
Frederic Piquionne’s wayward shooting in the seventh minute ensured that Wanderers didn’t fall behind early on.
The Frenchman did well to weave past Ben Hampson down the left flank before side-footing a weak effort that ricocheted back into the path of the striker. Piquionne then hit a rebounding shot from close range that flashed across the face of goal – a wasted opportunity that frustrated the frontman.
The Whites immediately responded and nearly opened the scoring less than a minute later.
A corner from Gregg Wylde was flicked on towards Hampson who re-positioned himself well to volley a left-footed strike goalwards. Just as the ball looked like crashing into the back of the net, West Ham defender Callum Driver leapt across to head the ball off the line to deny Bolton the lead.
The early goalmouth action suggested that there would be chances in abundance in the first half. Although with the majority of the play being mainly contested in the centre of the park and the defences remaining resilient, real opportunities were severely lacking.
Wanderers were unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty in the 16th minute after Michael O’Halloran was brought down in the area. The frontman turned past Driver as he ran inside from the left wing before the defender blatantly shoved O’Halloran in the back. As the striker fell to the floor though the referee surprisingly waved play on.
O’Halloran continued his relentless search for the goal to break the deadlock and was nearly rewarded for his efforts when he came close to scoring in the 38th minute.
The striker timed his run well to meet Adam Blakeman’s ball over the top of the Hammers defence, O’Halloran then hit a first-time shot on the bounce that sent the ball soaring just over the crossbar.
The second half provided more chances for both sides in front of goal and it also produced the opener for West Ham 11 minutes after the restart.
Spence reacted well to meet a ball whipped in by Robert Hall before the defender prodded the ball past goalkeeper Rob Lainton from a close range, a goal that came against the run of play.
Wanderers reacted well and nearly found the equaliser on the hour mark through Blakeman. Bolton were awarded a free-kick 25 yards from goal, the captain accepted the set-piece duty and curled a dangerous effort that crashed against the post.
Bolton maintained their high level of pressure and came agonisingly close to levelling matters through Knight with 20 minutes remaining.
A Wylde corner was nodded across the six-yard box to the defender who powered a header towards goal before seeing his effort blocked on the line by Matthias Fanimo.
The second period was constantly a very open encounter and just as the Whites had nearly found the net, the visitors came within inches of extending their lead through Hall in the 72nd minute.
The winger received the ball on the corner of the 18-yard box and quickly curled a shot beyond Lainton that rattled the bar.
Just as the chance to secure a point appeared to be slipping away from the Whites, the home side fashioned another chance from a Wylde corner.
Substitute Sanmi Odelusi anticipated the set-piece well and rose to glance a header towards the far post. The ball looked destined for goal but Wanderers were prevented off the line on a painful third occasion as Fanimo was in position to head away the danger again.
Odelusi’s late attempt proved to be the last chance of a match that Bolton deserved to walk away from with a draw at the very least.
Wanderers:Lainton, Hampson, Alonso, McQuade, Knight, Blakeman (Maher 81), Lester, Wolstenholme, O’Halloran (Odelusi 84), McKee, Wylde (Unused subs: Threlkeld, Fielding, Kelly).
West Ham United: Spiegel, Driver, Potts, Moncur, Wearen, Spence, Turgott, Lletget, Piquionne, Fanimo, Hall (Larkins 83) (Unused subs: Powell, Mpanzu, Shaw, Lee)