A Zach Clough brace and a Cian Bolger header secure three points in front of the watching Dougie Freedman
A brace from Zach Clough and a Cian Bolger header ensured that the Whites’ under-21s ran out 3-2 winners against Stoke City at the Weaver Stadium under the watching eye of manager Dougie Freedman.
Clough opened the scoring just before half time while John Marsden brought the Potters’ level shortly after the break, but Bolger restored Wanderers’ lead before the striker made sure of the victory from close range.
Jaden Hall did snatch a consolation for the hosts in injury time, but the result was no more than Bolton deserved given their dominance in the clash.
Wanderers started the brighter of the two sides with Sanmi Odelusi being fouled just outside the area inside the first minute, but Josh Vela’s resulting free-kick was cleared away by the Stoke defence with a number of Bolton players lurking.
It was clear to see that the Whites were up for the fight in the early stages, with Clough and Chris Lester proving themselves to be a nuisance in and around the hosts’ penalty area.
The first notable chance of the game though was to come in the seventh minute after Jack Sampson fought off the challenge of his man on the edge of the area before laying the ball off for an unmarked Odelusi on the left, but the winger could only side-foot his shot at Daniel Bachmann in the Stoke goal.
The frustration amongst the Potters’ side was clear to see, with keeper Rob Lainton easily dealing with any balls that came his way.
Clough looked certain to break the deadlock in the 13th minute after Adam Blakeman played the ball through the Stoke defence into the path of the striker, but he could only fire his shot at Bachmann from close range.
Despite their early pressure, Wanderers were almost undone just a minute later as Marcel Barrington was found unmarked in the box, but the Stoke man could only direct his header straight at Lainton.
The Whites almost responded in emphatic fashion directly from Lainton’s ball out with Odelusi’s scorching shot being parried into the path of Clough, but the youngster couldn’t get any real direction or power behind his shot which was easily cleared away.
Sampson was to go close next for Bolton, but Bachmann was equal to his shot from just outside the penalty area after good work from Clough.
Yet again Stoke were struggling to find any real penetration through the Wanderers’ defence, with John Marsden cutting a lone figure upfront.
Potters’ keeper Bachmann almost cost his side dearly with 27 minutes gone as he sliced his clearance with the Whites’ strike force in hot pursuit, but Stoke left-back James Campbell spared his blushes by sweeping the ball to safety.
Campbell almost turned provider for Stoke shortly after the half hour mark as he swung the ball into the area for Barrington who rose above his man to meet it, but his header went well over.
After a ferocious start to proceedings, the game appeared to slow down in tempo slightly as the half wore on, with both sides failing to really test either goalkeeper.
With it looking as though the clash would enter the half time break goalless however, Wanderers finally got the goal their dominance deserved through Clough in the 44th minute.
Lester powered down the right flank before forcing his way into the penalty area and playing the ball back for the forward who fired home into the roof of the net from close range.
The Whites started the second period as they ended the first, with Clough putting the Stoke defence under pressure early on.
Bolger went close to doubling Bolton’s advantage soon after, but he narrowly failed to connect with Blakeman’s corner with the goal at his mercy.
Despite their dominance however, Wanderers were hit with a sucker punch in the 51st minute as Marsden converted Stoke’s first real chance in the game from close range.
Jamie Fullarton’s side almost bounced back immediately as Odelusi played a pin point ball through the Potters’ defence into the path of Clough, but the assistant referee’s flag harshly denied him the chance to notch his second of the game.
Wanderers looked certain to retake the lead just moments later after Bachmann parried Lester’s initial shot into the path of Josh Vela, but the midfielder fired wide when it looked easier to score.
Bolton certainly weren’t letting the goal deter them, and their perseverance paid off just short of the hour mark as Cian Bolger header home Oscar Threlkeld’s lofty free-kick from the half way line.
It was no more than the Whites deserved, and Lester almost extended the lead two minutes later as his shot trickled across the face of goal.
Their good work was almost undone however just minutes later as Marsden capitalised on some hesitant Wanderers’ defending just outside the area, but Lainton punched the ball to safety.
With Bolton well and truly having a foothold in the game, they finally scored a much deserved third through Clough in the 74th minute, with the striker chasing the ball to the byline before squeezing past his man and poking home past Bachmann from close range.
Substitute Joe McKee went closing to adding to the Whites’ goal tally with 11 minutes left but the striker could only fire his shot into the side netting, while Clough went almost secured his hat trick as he forced the Stoke keeper into a smart save from long range.
Bolton looked increasingly likely to add a fourth as the game drew to its conclusion with Clough again going within inches of his third, while Marsden and Jordan Richardson produced notable chances from the hosts as they tested Lainton from distance.
Despite Jaden Hall reducing the deficit from six yards out deep into stoppage time however, Wanderers ran out worthy winners.
Stoke City:Bachmann, Glasgow, Campbell, Dawson, Heneghan, Keane, Hall, Richardson, Barrington, Marsden, Thomas. (Subs not used: Kurasik, Cook, Sanders, Ricketts-Hopkinson, Rigg)
Wanderers: Lainton, Threlkeld, Kellett, McQuade, Bolger, Vela (Maher, 65), Lester, Blakeman (Hampson, 72), Sampson, Clough, Odelusi (McKee, 72). (Subs not used: Hampson, Sievers, Youngs)