Report: Bolton 0-2 Brighton
Wanderers’ five-match was brought to an end as a brace from Will Buckley secured all three points for Brighton at the Reebok Stadium.
Bolton bombarded Tomasz Kuszczak’s goal from start to finish, but failed to find a way past the Pole on what was a frustrating day for Dougie Freedman’s side.
Medo hit the bar with a curling free-kick that was deflected onto the crossbar just before the interval, with what was the best opportunity for the Whites, while Joe Mason had the ball in net midway through the second half only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
But Brighton held on claim victory despite limited opportunities in front of goal as they made the long trip back to the South Coast with maximum points.
Chung-Yong Lee made his first start in over a month as Dougie Freedman made four changes to the side that secured a share of the points away at Derby County on Tuesday night.
Mason recovered from the ear infection that kept him against the Rams to lead the line alongside Lukas Jutkiewicz, while there were also recalls for Liam Trotter and David Wheater as Neil Danns, Andre Moritz and Zat Knight all dropped to the bench.
Meanwhile Alan Hutton made his home debut for the Whites while there was also a maiden place on the bench for 20-year-old defender Oscar Threlkeld.
With both sides eager to claim a maximum three points Wanderers looked to attack straight from kick-off, but it was Brighton who created the first opportunity of note as Adam Bogdan readjusted his feet well to palm a wayward Stephen Ward cross behind for a corner.
At the other end Lukas Jutkiewicz was only denied an early shot at goal when primed to pull the trigger by last-ditch Brighton defending, after a great individual run down the right-hand side.
Looking dangerous down either flank, Joe Mason came close to giving Bolton the lead after being picked out by Medo and Chung-Yong Lee crosses respectively, however, when under-pressure from the Brighton defenders the forward struggled to get his shot away on either occasion.
Freedman’s side were full of confidence as they looked to take control of the match in the opening 20 minutes, but any hopes of a third successive home clean sheet were quickly dashed as Will Buckley gave Brighton the lead.
Connecting with Leonardo Ulloa’s cross, only a superb reflex save from Bogdan denied the winger from point-blank range. However, reacting first to the loose ball, Buckley was given time in the box to turn and curl a cruel effort past the Hungarian into the top right-hand corner.
Bolton looked to hit back immediately when Jay Spearing came close to firing home an equaliser. Spotting Tomasz Kuszczak off his line, the Whites captain unleashed a powerful effort at goal from range, which the back-pedaling keeper was only just able to tip over the crossbar.
Wanderers continued to push for an equaliser as David Wheater nearly marked his return to the starting XI with a goal.
Leaping highest to connect with Chung-Yong Lee’s corner, the centre-back powered a header at goal, but, with his effort straight at Kuszczak, the Pole was able to tip it harmlessly over the bar.
Spearing came close again for the Whites as he persisted with trying his luck from distance. However, after seeing his strike spilled by Kuszczak, no Bolton player was on hand to take advantage allowing the Gordan Greer to clear for Brighton.
The Whites continued to dominate and had only the woodwork to curse for not going in at the break level, when Medo’s curling free-kick was deflected onto the crossbar by the outrushing Brighton wall.
Wanderers started the second half how they ended the first as Liam Trotter raced onto a Tim Ream through-ball. However, despite being well-placed on the edge of the Brighton penalty area, the midfielder only managed to drag his shot wide.
It was to be his last contribution of the afternoon as Robert Hall was introduced to the action soon after in an attacking change for the Whites as they continued to press for an equaliser.
Jutkiewicz and Mason continued to link up well in attack for Bolton, and almost combined to create the sought-after goal, as the former came within inches of connecting with the Cardiff City loanee’s cutback across goal.
Moments after having a header deflected narrowly off-target, Mason thought he had levelled the scores when he managed to poke the ball home following a goal-mouth scramble, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
However, Bolton were soon made to rue their missed opportunities as Buckley notched his second of the afternoon against the run of play.
Breaking free of the Bolton defence, the winger ran clean-through on goal after cutting in from the right, before slotting the ball beyond Bogdan to double Brighton’s lead.
The Whites responded by bringing on Andre Moritz in place of Chung-Yong Lee, having seen the midfielder often make an impact from the substitute’s bench this season.
As the game entered its dying embers Wanderers continued to be bold as Neil Danns came on for Wheater, with Spearing dropping back into defence.
And the midfielder almost made an instant impacting when picked out by Mason, but he could only head wide when left unmarked in the box.
Alex Baptiste and Alan Hutton both came close late on as Bolton continued to push for a late consolation, but it was to no avail as the game petered out with Brighton hanging on to inflict a harsh defeat on the Whites.