Report: Bolton 1-0 Blackpool
In a game of few chances, David Wheater’s first half header decided what was a scrappy Tuesday night Lancashire derby against Barry Ferguson’s Blackpool.
The defender celebrated his return to the side by connecting with Jay Spearing’s outswinging corner, to give Bolton a deserved early lead.
And despite Blackpool’s best efforts, the Tangerines were unable to find a way past Adam Bogdan as the Hungarian enjoyed a rather quiet night’s work during his 100th appearance for the Whites.
With Alex Baptiste missing the clash against his former side through suspension, Dougie Freedman made just one enforced change to the side drew against Yeovil Town on Saturday.
David Wheater returned in the heart of defence with Tim Ream reverting to left-back, while there was also a maiden place on the bench for 20-year-old defender Andrew Kellett.
Against a Blackpool defence determined to sit deep and retain possession, Wanderers looked to run at the Tangerines backline early on, and could have taken the lead following good wing play from Joe Mason.
Running down the left-hand side, the Cardiff City loanee saw off Tony McMahon before cutting the ball back across goal to the waiting Lukas Jutkiewicz, however, Mason’s cross was just behind his strike-partner, allowing Blackpool to clear the lines.
With all the early action taking place in the Blackpool half, Jutkiewicz came close again moments later. Cutting in from the right following further good link-up play with Mason, the forward powered a long-range strike at goal on his weaker foot, over to see his effort curl harmlessly over the bar.
However, Bolton did not have long to wait until they did take a deserved early lead as Wheater celebrated his return to the starting XI with a goal.
Coming from an outswinging Jay Spearing corner, the centre-back leapt highest to power home a header back across goal and beyond Matt Gilks, to give the Whites the lead in the most simplest of fashions just after the 15-minute mark.
Awakened by falling behind, Blackpool looked to fight back and could have drawn level almost immediately as they caught Wanderers out with a quick counter-attack.
With Alan Hutton caught out in attack, Ricardo Fuller unleashed Andrew Halliday down the left-hand flank, allowing the winger to sprint through on goal.
However, the Blackpool-man was rushed into taking an early strike when under-pressure, and only succeeded in finding the side-netting from an acute angle.
The Tangerines continued to put the Bolton defence under-pressure with Fuller in particular heavily involved. Spinning the goalscorer Wheater, the Jamaican attempted to fizz a dangerous low ball across goal, only to be denied by a vital Zat Knight block.
Continuing to try their luck from range, centre-back McMahon was the next Blackpool player to try and find a way past centurion Bogdan, only for his bending drive from the edge of the box to drift just wide of the Hungarian’s goal.
Fuller continued be a thorn in the Whites’ defence, and almost forced an equaliser just short of the interval, pressuring Knight into heading the ball against his own post following a long throw.
But despite finishing the half on the back foot, Wanderers managed to maintain their lead and went in at the break a goal to the good.
Blackpool started the second half much the same as they ended the first, but remained unable to find a past a stubborn Bolton backline.
After cutting in from the left Fuller teed up Elliot Grandin on the edge of the box, only for the midfielder’s strike from range to deflect behind for a corner.
From the resulting set piece, Knight had to be alert to hack the ball away inside the six-yard box following a goalmouth scramble.
The Whites did have chances of their own however, as a deflected strike from Hutton fell kindly to Medo out on the right, but despite having both time and space, the midfielder was only able to shoot wildly into the stand
Chung-Yong Lee joined the action in place of Mark Davies just after the hour mark as Wanderers chased a second goal to kill off the game, but Blackpool remained the side on top as an off-balance McMahon failed to find the target following a quickly-taken free-kick.
Persisting with long-range efforts at goal, the Tangerines were still yet to force Bogdan into a save as the game entered its final third, as Grandin became the latest player to wildly miss the target.
As both sides chased a potential decisive goal, Jermaine Beckford joined the action in place of Joe Mason, to make his first appearance at the Reebok Stadium since mid-January, while Rob Earnshaw came on to make his Tangerines debut as Blackpool switched to two upfront.
And it was the former who almost made an instant impact. Running onto Chung-Yong Lee’s through-ball, a stretching Beckford was able to toe the ball past the onrushing Gilks, only to see his prodded effort roll agonisingly wide.
Bolton began to find a second wind as the half wore on and Blackpool tired, as Neil Danns first forced Gilks into a fine save before Beckford headed straight at the Scot, after being picked out by Jutkiewicz, when well-placed in the area.
Andre Moritz was brought on in the dying minutes, and almost created a goal with his very first touch as the playmaker stepped up to whip a free-kick into the box.
His set-piece found Knight at the far post, however, the defender was unable to catch out the back-pedalling Gilks with a looping header across goal.
In the dying minutes Beckford wasted another opportunity to double the Whites’ advantage. Stealing possession from McMahon, the forward raced through on goal but failed to hit the target as he bent his effort wide of the far post.
Finishing the match on top Moritz and Danns both missed half-chances at the death, as Wanderers held on to claim all three points from what was a scrappy Lancashire derby.