Youngsters run out comfortable winners against their West Ham United counterparts
Goals from Georg Iliev and Tom Walker earned Wanderers’ under-21 side a 2-0 victory over West Ham United at the County Ground in their final home game of the season.
Coming up against a Hammers side which boasted the experienced figure of Joe Cole, Iliev opened the scoring on the stroke of half time with Walker’s solo effort half way through the second period wrapping up the points for the Whites.
The visitors started strongly, with Kyle Knoyle’s wicked ball into the area being cleared away by Oscar Threlkeld at the death with a number of West Ham bodies lurking inside the opening two minutes of the clash.
Jordan Brown was next to test the Bolton defence as he capitalised on a loose ball just outside the area, but Rob Holding was quickly on his case to snuff out the danger and clear Wanderers’ lines.
Oscar Threlkeld also denied the Hammers’ frontman moments later as he sprinted free, with the centre-half doing well to scoop the ball away from the feet of Brown.
After withstanding a period of pressure from the visitors, Wanderers showed their own worth with a well worked move between Andy Kellett and Zach Clough, but the latter couldn’t get the direction needed on it to test Tim Brown in the West Ham goal.
An opportunity which appeared to spur the Whites on, Tom Youngs’ powerful drive flew past the upright shortly after with Brown a beaten man.
It wasn’t until the 14th minute that either goalkeeper was called into action, with Matthias Fanimo’s thunderous volley forcing Arran Lee-Barrett to pull off a superb reflex save while Holding was forced to clear the ball away from the goalmouth.
Full-back Kellett looked set to re-enact his heroics from last week’s clash with Arsenal half way through the first period as he powered downfield before seeing his effort blocked, with neither Clough nor Woodland able to force home the rebound.
Cole in the West Ham midfield was proving himself to a nuisance for Wanderers, but the Whites were looking threatening on the counter attack with a number of chances for Tom Youngs, Niall Maher and Walker going begging.
As the half wore on, it was clear to see that Wanderers were slowly finding themselves in the ascendancy with Clough spurning a glorious chance to break the deadlock as he failed to get the power needed behind his effort from just inside the area with seven minutes of the half remaining.
Their determination was to finally pay off on the stroke of half time however as following good work from Clough, the frontman threaded the ball into the path of the advancing Iliev who thundered home past Brown to hand Wanderers the lead.
Bolton almost began the second period as they ended the first, with Iliev’s close range effort being deflected agonisingly wide of the upright to deny the Bulgarian his second of the game.
Following some early pressure from the hosts which included efforts from Chris Lester and Clough, the Hammers did slowly but surely work their way upfield before forcing successive corners which the Bolton defence dealt with admirably.
No sooner had they enjoyed a spell of possession however, Wanderers were back on the attack with Walker’s ambitious effort being deflected over Brown’s crossbar.
Conor Wilkinson looked to have extended Bolton’s lead with his first touch of the game after being introduced as a substitute just after the hour mark, but the offside flag denied him a goal after great work from Clough.
Clough and Iliev combined yet again moments later as the former played a swift ball into the path of the Bulgarian frontman, but there was just a little too much power on it and Smith was able to smother the ball to safety.
A second goal seemed to be imminent and Wanderers finally put some breathing space between themselves and their opponents with 22 minutes left as Walker powered forward before firing the ball past the despairing West Ham goalkeeper.
No more than Bolton deserved given their dominance, West Ham made a double substation in a bid to salvage a result from the game – one which almost paid dividends in the 78th minute as Nathan Mavila forced Lee-Barrett into a smart save from his powerful close range shot.
Maher however almost made it three with eight minutes left as Smith spilled his thunderous effort following a mazy run from the full-back, but the goalkeeper somehow managed to scramble the ball out for a corner kick.
Wanderers did push to extend their lead as the game drew to its conclusion with under-18 striker Jamie Thomas almost snatching his first goal at under-21 level, but the deficit was to remain at just two as the Whites ran out comfortable winners.
Wanderers: Lee-Barrett, Maher, Kellett, Threlkeld, Holding, Woodland, Lester, Youngs (Wilkinson, 63), Iliev, Clough (Thomas, 79), Walker (Ball, 83)
Subs not used: Campbell, Bastos
West Ham United: Brown, Knoyle, Potts, Whitehead, Burke, Harney, Fanimo, Cullen (Lletget, 71), Brown (Mavila, 71), Cole, Sadlier (Bywater, 84)
Subs not used: Guzman, Nasha