Conor Wilkinson scores two and creates another in emphatic Wanderers victory
Conor Wilkinson scored two and set up another as Bolton Wanderers Under-21s opened 2015 with a 3-0 victory over local rivals Blackburn Rovers.
The Republic of Ireland Under-21s international opened the scoring for the Whites inside the opening five minutes, slotting home after goalkeeper Jake Kean had denied Sanmi Odelusi, before laying on the second goal for Chris Lester.
Odelusi and Georg Iliev combined to create Bolton’s third early in the second half, picking out Wilkinson in the centre who was left with a simple finish to wrap up the win for the Trotters.
Kevin McNaughton and Jay Spearing were both named in the young Whites’ starting XI as they took on Blackburn Rovers in their first match of 2015.
Elsewhere, there were recalls for Conor Wilkinson, Oscar Threlkeld and Ross Fitzsimons.
Wanderers were on the back-foot straight from kick-off as Blackburn won a corner with their very first attack.
Dean Rittenberg rose highest to connect with Connor Mahoney’s corner, but was unable to keep his header down at the near post.
The Whites made Rovers pay for their early miss almost immediately as they took the lead with their very first attack moments later.
Oscar Threlkeld picked out Sanmi Odelusi with a perfectly-weighted through-ball, and although Jake Kean was off his line quickly to deny the forward, Conor Wilkinson was on hand to slot home the rebound after the ball fell kindly at his feet.
It could have been 2-0 soon-after as Jay Spearing’s in-swinging free-kick evaded everyone before drifting narrowly wide of the far post.
Bolton continued to control proceedings as Wilkinson went close to doubling his side’s lead, shrugging off a Blackburn challenge inside the area only for Kean to palm away his subsequent strike at the near post.
Jay Spearing was the next player to try his luck for the Trotters after being picked out by Chris Lester’s low corner. However, the midfielder was unable to keep his strike down as it flew harmlessly over the crossbar.
Wanderers went close again within minutes after winning another corner, however Threlkeld was unable to hit the target with his volleyed effort after the ball fell to him on the edge of the area.
But the Whites did soon make their dominance pay as Lester doubled his side’s lead with their very next attack following a good team move.
Receiving the ball on the edge of the Blackburn box, Wilkinson managed to slot the ball through to Lester, who powered a strike through Kean’s legs at the near post for Bolton’s second goal.
The chances dried up as the half wore on with the majority of the play taking place in the middle of the park.
However, Kean was called into action once more before the break as Odelusi broke free down the left before cutting in and trying his luck. However, the Blackburn keeper was alert enough to tip the ball over the bar as the sides went in at the break with Bolton two goals to the good.
The Trotters remained in control after the interval with Spearing heavily involved in the half’s opening moments.
Powering through midfield, the ex-Liverpool man picked out Wilkinson inside the area with a well-disguised pass, but the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international was unable to get a shot away as Blackburn cleared.
Spearing tried his luck himself from moments later after stealing possession in midfield, firing a powerful strike at goal from 25-yards that looked destined for the top right-hand corner, only for Kean to dive full-stretch to tip the ball away.
It was 3-0 from Wanderers’ next attack after Odelusi broke free down the left. Picking out Georg Iliev, the forward was able to centre the ball to Wilkinson who was left with a simple finish as he notched his second goal of the night.
The Whites twice came close to making it 4-0 shortly after the hour-mark after the ball broke free to Iliev in the area, only for his goalbound strike to be deflected narrowly wide.
From the resulting corner Blackburn were forced to clear off their line, with Alex Finney unable to convert the rebound from close-range, his shot clearing the bar.
Blackburn pressed for a late consolation as the half wore on as Ross Fitzsimons had to be alert to tip a Jack Doyle chipped effort over the bar before getting down well to deny substitute Jordan Preston moments later.
Bolton remained strong at the back and held on to ensure they opened the calendar year with a comfortable win.
Bolton: Fitzsimons, McNaughton, Maher, Finney, Taylor, Spearing (Woodland 72), Lester, Threlkeld, Wilkinson (Woolery 86), Iliev, Odelusi (Matthews 80).
Unused subs: Holding, Campbell
Blackburn: Kean, Thomson (Nyambe 25), Spurr (Wall 65), Carson, Lavelle, Jones, Mahoney, Bauress, Rittenberg (Preston 81), Green, Doyle.
Unused subs: Crump, Joel