Youngsters defeated in their first home U21 Barclays Premier League clash of the calendar year
Wanderers' under-21 side slipped to a 2-0 defeat against their Southampton counterparts on a bitterly cold Monday evening at the County Ground.
Having enjoyed a number of opportunities to take the lead early on, the visitors did so with 25 minutes on the clock through Sam McQueen whose scuffed effort squeezed under the body of goalkeeper Harry Campbell.
Despite a second half rally from the Whites however, the Saints wrapped up the points with six minutes to go as Aaron Martin scrambled the ball home from close range.
The Saints almost began in emphatic style as Jake Sinclair broke free inside two minutes, but Campbell pulled off a superb reflex save at the death to deny him the opening goal of the game.
Wanderers hit back straight away however, with Rob Hall’s curling effort testing Cody Cropper in the Saints’ goal while Zach Clough’s tame effort was easily collected by the keeper.
Having been called into action early on, Campbell produced another excellent save with ten minutes on the clock as Harry Reed attempted an ambitious looping shot, but the scholar tipped his effort over the crossbar.
McQueen looked destined to fire the Saints into the lead just moments later after connecting with Jack Stephens’ wicked ball into the box, but he couldn’t get the direction needed on the ball with the goal at his mercy.
The Southampton frontline were looking undeniably menacing, with Wanderers’ defence being forced to defend deeply for much of the opening quarter of the game.
The Whites however did look dangerous themselves on the counter as Clough and Odelusi proved themselves a nuisance for the Saints’ backline, with the former slamming an effort straight down the throat of Cropper with 23 minutes on the clock.
After threatening throughout the evening though, the visitors did eventually break the deadlock through McQueen just two minutes later as the front man’s scuffed shot slipped under the body of Campbell, despite the young keeper’s best efforts.
The Saints almost doubled their advantage moments later as Matt Targett unleashed a scorching shot from just outside the penalty area, but the Bolton shot stopper’s fingertips denied him what would have been a memorable strike.
The goal had clearly boosted Southampton, with a number of opportunities to extend their lead going begging as the half drew to its conclusion including Jake Sinclair being unable to take advantage of a loose ball amongst the Whites’ defence.
Jordan Turnbull forced Campbell into yet another reflex save on the stroke of half time, with Rob Holding on hand to scoop the ball to safety after the keeper had parried the midfielder’s effort.
As the second period got underway, the Saints enjoyed the first notable opportunity with 49 minutes gone as Sinclair attempted to beat the Bolton keeper from distance, but his effort failed to trouble Campbell.
McQueen went close to doubling his tally seven minutes later as he found himself in space and unleashed from an acute angle, but Campbell was alert yet again to keep the deficit at one.
Wanderers were almost level just moments later however as Chris Lester's ball found an unmarked Hall, but the winger couldn't connect properly and saw the chance go begging.
The tempo of the game appeared to drop somewhat following a sprightly start to proceedings, with Luke Woodland's drilled shot from all of 30 yards failing to test Cropper, much to the frustration of the midfielder himself.
Tom Youngs, fresh from his brace against Leicester last time out, was thrown into the mix in a bid to pull Wanderers back into the clash and offer extra firepower alongside Clough and Wilkinson.
The introduction of Andy Kellett also lead to a shift in the Bolton defence, with Lester being moved into a more attacking role as the clock ran down.
Frustration was clearly setting in amongst the Whites' side as the Saints' defence stood firm, but Kellett almost made an instant impact as he powered to the byline before playing the ball back for the advancing Wilkinson, but the opportunity somehow eluded the striker.
Having come so close to an equaliser, Wanderers' confidence was visibly boosted with Lester's close range effort being saved at the death by Cropper shortly after.
Their determination was to be in vain however as with six minutes left on the clock, the visitors doubled their advantage through Martin who scrambled the ball home from point-blank range after a goalmouth scramble.
Substitute Laste Dombaxe almost snatched a consolation for Wanderers on the stroke of full time with a well-taken free-kick, but his effort whipped narrowly past the upright as Southampton held out.
Bolton: Campbell, Lester, Holding, Threlkeld, Bolger, Vela, Odelusi (Kellett, 67), Woodland (Dombaxe, 75), Wilkinson, Clough, Hall (Youngs, 61)
Subs not used: Walker, Knight
Southampton: Cropper, Stephens, Targett, Gape, Martin, Turnbull, Isgrove, Reed, Gallagher, Sinclair (Moore, 80), McQueen (Rowe, 61)
Subs not used: Johns, Young, Robinson