Report: Bolton 2-0 Watford
Wanderers deservedly picked up all three points with a convincing 2-0 victory over Watford at the Reebok Stadium.
In a game which the Whites dominated from start to finish, Lukas Jutkiewicz opened the scoring with 35 minutes gone as he poked the ball home from close range, with Joe Mason deservedly marking his return to the club with a well taken strike on the stroke of half time.
Dougie Freedman’s men did enjoy chances to extend their lead in the second period with Mason in particular being thwarted by Watford keeper Manuel Almunia, but the result was never in doubt as Wanderers coasted to victory.
Wanderers made one change to the side which turned out against Millwall last time out, with Mason replacing Chris Eagles in the starting line-up in a two-pronged attack with Jutkiewicz.
Liam Trotter also returned to the matchday eighteen having sat out last Saturday’s draw with the Lions due to the terms of his loan deal, but the midfielder took his place among the Bolton substitutes.
As the first period got underway, neither side could really forge any clear cut opportunities with Jutkiewicz’s mazy run into the area being the most notable act of the opening five minutes.
Having struggled to break down a resilient Bolton backline, Watford threatened with seven minutes on the clock as Marco Cassetti found himself unmarked at the near post, but the Italian failed to get his effort on target.
Wanderers looked set to break the deadlock in the tenth minute as following great work from Mark Davies, the midfielder threaded a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Mason who was denied only by a superb reflex save by Manuel Almunia.
Up the other end of the pitch however, the Hornets also enjoyed a glorious chance to open the scoring as an unmarked Troy Deeney headed goalbound after connecting with Daniel Tozser’s lofty ball, but Adam Bogdan was on hand to deny the frontman at the death.
The opportunities appeared to bring some much needed energy to the game, with Mason going close to notching what would have been a goal of the season contender with a powerful run from his own half, but some last ditch Watford defending prevented him from unleashing the ball in to the net.
With the Whites unlucky not to be in front, Mason again went within inches of marking his second debut for the club with a goal as he rounded Almunia, but Joel Ekstrand was on hand to scramble the ball away for a corner kick.
An injury to Darren Pratley half way through the first period saw the introduction of Neil Danns into the fold, but the visitors almost stunned the Reebok faithful soon after as Marco Faraoni forced the Bolton keeper into a smart save from close range to keep the scores level.
Wanderers did have the goal in the back of the net with 11 minutes of the half left as Medo whipped in a delicious cross which Jutkiewicz converted after initially hitting the woodwork, but the referee had already blown for a foul on the Sierra Leone international, much to Wanderers’ frustration.
Not to be denied however, the on-loan frontman proceeded to hand Bolton the lead and notch his third goal in four games from the resulting free-kick as he prodded home through a crowd of bodies in the area.
No more than Wanderers deserved, it was almost two just before the break as David Wheater met Tim Ream’s swinging free kick, but the full-back’s header flew narrowly over the crossbar.
Having run riot throughout most of the first period, the Whites did double their advantage on the stroke of half time as Mason collected the ball from Spearing’s header and slotted it under a despairing Almunia to the delight of the home fans.
Wanderers began the second period as they ended the first, with Mason pulling the ball back for the advancing Bolton frontline, only to see it cleared away for a corner.
The ever threatening youngster was at it again a few minutes later, chasing the ball down the left flank before being dispossessed just as he was about to unleash his effort goalbound.
It seemed as though Bolton could easily score with each and every attack that they created, with the partnership of Jutkiewicz and Mason undoubtedly proving instrumental in proceedings.
With a swagger in their play, Wanderers almost had a third as Medo’s well taken free-kick lofted over a despairing Watford wall, but his effort skimmed narrowly past the post with Almunia beaten.
Mark Davies nearly snatched a goal of his own on the hour mark after fantastic work from Danns on the left flank but the midfielder couldn’t get the direction needed on his effort to trouble the Watford keeper, while the on-loan Leicester man himself unleashed an acrobatic effort moments later which forced Almunia into a superb save.
It seemed only a matter of time before the Whites would extend their lead with the home side leading a barrage of attacks on the Watford goal, but the visitors almost snatched one back against the run of play as Daniel Pudil fired goalbound from the edge of the area, only to see Bogdan comfortably collect the ball.
An injury sustained to Matt Mills halted play momentarily, but the full-back was able to continue and retook his place in the heart of the Bolton defence.
Having struggled to really test Bogdan throughout the course of the afternoon, substitute Christian Battocchio tried his luck from distance with 15 minutes remaining but his effort was easily scooped out of the air by the Bolton keeper.
Straight from Bogdan’s resulting clearance, Mason almost had his second of the game as he raced goalwards with only Almunia to beat, but Watford once again had their goalkeeper to thank for saving their blushes as he denied the striker at the death.
Bolton’s third looked to have arrived with seven minutes remaining as following an impressive run down the right from Jutkiewicz, the frontman teed the ball up for substitute Chung-Yong Lee, but the winger failed to get his shot away with Mason too unable to convert as he was smothered by Watford defenders.
The hosts did enjoy opportunities as the clock ran down with Liam Trotter's pass narrowly eluding Danns inside the area just as the fourth official indicated there would be six minutes of additional time, but it was to prove insignificant as Wanderers ran out comfortable winners at the final whistle.