Cian Bolger's first-half goal the difference between the two sides at the Reebok Stadium
Cian Bolger’s goal on the stroke of half time ensured that the Whites’ Under 21s ran out 1-0 winners against table-topping Reading at the Reebok Stadium.
Having withstood a period of early pressure from the visitors, Bolton took the lead in first half stoppage time as the towering defender headed home from close range.
The victory was no more than Wanderers deserved given their determined performance, with the score line arguably flattering the Royals given the number of opportunities Bolton had to extend their lead.
The game had started quietly, with both sides struggling to create any meaningful attacks in the opening stages.
Reading were the first to show any real threat in front of goal in the fourth minute, with Gozie Ugwu just failing to connect with Josh Webb’s downfield pass.
The Royals were undeniably enjoying the majority of the possession early on, but their dominance wasn’t paying dividends as a resolute Wanderers defence stood firm.
Ugwu gave Jay Lynch his first real action of the game with ten minutes gone as he chased down Dominic Samuel’s pass, but the Bolton goalkeeper reacted quickly and cleared the ball to safety.
Zach Clough broke away soon after and looked certain to score given his recent blistering form in front of goal, but he was muscled off the ball at the crucial moment before he could unleash a shot.
With the Whites having withstood a number of Reading attacks during the opening quarter, Chris Lester almost handed Bolton the lead in the 20th minute as he powered down the right before skipping inside the area, but Royals’ goalkeeper Jonathan Henly was equal to his strike.
It was clear to see that Wanderers were slowly finding their feet in the clash and were looking the more likely of the sides to score, with Henly parrying away Lester’s scorching shot with half an hour gone.
Wanderers were most definitely the team in the ascendancy as they pushed forward in search of the opening goal, with Jack Sampson going close to breaking the deadlock with a header from close range.
With their lively opening well and truly behind them, the Reading strike force of Ugwu and Samuel were cutting lonely figures upfront as the Whites’ continued to pile on the attacks.
Just as it looked as though the game would enter the break goalless, Wanderers finally got the goal their pressure deserved as Bolger headed home from close range in first half stoppage time.
The Bolton captain rose above a sea of bodies inside the six yard box to connect with Sampson’s lofty free-kick, with his header going in off the inside of the far post.
The central defender almost doubled his and Wanderers’ tally just two minutes after the restart, but he failed to get any real direction on his header from six yards out.
Reading almost responded in emphatic fashion just moments later as Pierce Sweeney glanced the ball towards goal, but Lynch was quick to react and keep the visitors at bay.
Despite the scare however, Wanderers were still looking likely to extend their lead with Oluwasanmi Odelusi somehow failing to connect with Joe McKee’s lethal corner kick which eluded the Reading defence from just three yards out.
The Royals were almost gifted a route back into the game just short of the hour mark as an unmarked Jordan Obita was allowed time and space to shoot inside the area, but the winger’s strike was in avertedly blocked by his own team mate Samuel.
Bolger went close yet again to doubling the Whites’ lead as he rose to meet McKee’s swinging free-kick with 65 minutes gone, but Henly managed to get a hand to the ball and punch it away from the advancing centre-half.
Samuel was handed the Royals’ best chance of the match in the 66th minute as he found himself one-on-one with Lynch and looked destined to level the scores, but the Bolton goalkeeper stood firm and deflected the ball away from goal.
Wanderers were looking more and more likely to find the back of the net again as the half wore on, with Adam Blakeman firing just over from distance and substitute Tom Youngs coming up just short after a mazy run on goal.
Ugwu almost snatched Reading an equaliser against the run of play with just ten minutes left as he unleashed a shot from just outside the penalty area, but Lynch got himself down at his near post to deny the centre forward.
Having been penned in their own area for much of the second half, the Royals were suddenly throwing everybody forward in a bid to rescue the clash with Ugwu again going close for Eamonn Dolan’s side, but Lynch easily dealt with any incoming shots.
Wanderers looked certain to double their advantage with just four minutes to go as Henly parried Iliev’s initial shot into the path of Youngs, but the keeper recovered to deny the striker from close range.
Niall Maher and Youngs both enjoyed chances to get their names on the score sheet as the clock ticked down but the clash finished 1-0, with the three points bringing the Whites level on second placed Norwich City in the league table.
Wanderers:Lynch, Maher, Kellett, Threlkeld, Bolger, Vela (Youngs, 66), Lester (Iliev, 69), McKee, Sampson, Clough (Blakeman, 32), Odelusi. (Subs not used: Sievers, Dennis)
Reading: Henly, Keown, Webb (Edwards, 69), Tshibola, Sweeney, Partridge, Arnold, Taylor, Ugwu, Samuel, Obita. (Subs not used: Moore, Kelly, McClennan, Dickie)