U21s: Bolton 3-2 Aston Villa

Youngsters run out winners against their Villa counterparts in Leyland


Wanderers' under-21 side ran out 3-2 winners against Aston Villa at a bitterly cold County Ground on Monday evening.

Having weathered an early flurry of Villa attacks, the Whites proceeded to break the deadlock through captain Cian Bolger with Zach Clough doubling Bolton's tally shortly after the half hour mark.

With the visitors having begun the second period with more gusto, Clough proceeded to extend Wanderers' lead as he notched his second of the game with 68 minutes on the clock.

Villa did hit back late on with goals from Graham Burke and Calum Robinson to ensure a nervy end to the clash, but the hosts held out to secure the victory.


Following a sprightly start to the game by both teams, Villa enjoyed the first notable chances of the clash with four minutes on the clock as both Calum Robinson and Daniel O'Brien's ambitious efforts were deflected past the post with a goal seeming imminent. 

Chris Lester almost stunned the visitors moments later however with goalkeeper Bradley Watkins fumbling the winger's dangerous ball into the box with Clough ready to pounce, but the youngster recovered to keep the scores level.

From thereon in, both sides were clearly keen to open the scoring as chances went begging at either end, with Conor Wilkinson's lofty ball into the area skimming over the crossbar with Watkins beaten.

Having threatened to break the deadlock, Wanderers did so with 18 minutes on the clock through Bolger who rose above the Villa defence to head home from a corner kick.

Despite finding themselves behind, the Villans almost snatched an equaliser straight from the restart as Andras Stieber forced Arran Lee-Barrett into a superb reflex save with his effort from distance.

The midfielder, who had scored in his last two outings for the visitors, looked certain to bring his side back on level terms, but the Bolton keeper was on his guard to preserve Wanderers' lead.

With half an hour gone, the Whites enjoyed a glorious opportunity to double their advantage as both Georg Iliev's effort was blocked at the death following good work from Lester on the right flank.

They didn't have to wait too long to find the back of the net again though, with Clough firing home from just inside the area following a great pull back from Wilkinson and a clever dummy from Andy Kellett which left the Villa defence dumbfounded. 

A third was almost the Whites' three minutes later as Wilkinson fired the ball into the chest of Watkins, but the keeper did enough to deflect the ball away from goal and out for a corner kick.

With the half drawing to a close, Villa almost halved the deficit as Lee-Barrett parried Stieber's stinging effort before reacting to deny Robinson from close range on the rebound.


Fresh from the break, the visitors pushed forward inside the opening 20 seconds of the half with Johnson enjoying a great chance to pull Villa back into the clash, but he thrashed his effort over the crossbar with only Lee-Barrett to beat.

A chance which clearly rejuvenated Gordon Cowans' side, Graham Burke's effort moments later had Lee-Barrett on his guard with the Bolton keeper denying Robinson on the rebound.

From one excellent save to another, Wilkinson almost had a goal of his own with 51 minutes on the clock as he cut inside his man on the edge of the area, but Watkins proceeded to produce an unbelievable reflex save to keep the scoreline at two.

Janoi Donacien looked certain to pull a goal back five minutes later as he connected with Robinson's in-swinging ball into the box, but the full-back somehow failed to get his header on target.

With frustration clearly setting in for the Villans, Wanderers hit them with a sucker punch as Clough snatched his second of the game with Wilkinson again the orchestrator, feeding the ball in to the path of Clough who delicately chipped the ball over the advancing Watkins to make it three for Bolton.

Not to be deterred, Villa still threw men forward as the game drew to its conclusion with Johnson forcing Lee-Barrett into a smart save from close range before Burke snatched a goal back with nine minutes remaining with a curled effort into the bottom corner of the net.

Sensing a late rally, the visitors pushed forward as the clock ran down and secured a second on the stroke of full time through Robinson whose looping effort eluded Lee-Barrett to give Villa a glimmer of hope.

With the game seconds away from its conclusion, Robinson looked certain to snatch what had seemed an unlikely equaliser after finding himself unmarked in the six-yard-box, but the Bolton keeper was to be the hero as he pulled off yet another superb save to ensure that Wanderers held onto all three points.

Bolton: Lee-Barrett, Lester, Kellett, Holding, Bolger, Popescu (Matthew, 80), Iliev (76), Woodland, Wilkinson (Walker, 86), Clough, Youngs

Subs not used: Campbell, Kelly

Aston Villa: Watkins, Webb, Kinsella, Donacien, Lewis (Toner, 8), Stieber, Johnson, Burke, O'Brien (Abdo, 69), Robinson, Sellars (Green, 69)

Subs not used: Grant, Strain
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