Jamie Thomas with the decisive strike as Wanderers' youngsters run out winners over their local rivals
Jamie Thomas’ late penalty kick earned Wanderers’ Under-21s all three points and a league double over their Blackburn Rovers counterparts on Thursday afternoon.
In a game of few clear cut chances, the decisive moment came with just three minutes of the match remaining as Hyuga Tanner fouled Conor Wilkinson in the area, giving referee Anthony Backhouse no choice but to point to the spot.
Having come into the clash as a second half substitute, it was down to Thomas to keep his cool from 12 yards, with the Under-18 frontman calmly dispatching his effort past Andrew Fisher to secure victory for the Whites.
Wanderers’ starting XI saw the inclusion of the returning Conor Wilkinson, Niall Maher and Sanmi Odelusi following the conclusion of their respective loan deals with Oldham Athletic, Blackpool and Coventry City respectively.
There was also a place in the team for Quade Taylor fresh from his senior debut against Birmingham City on Saturday afternoon, with the defender donning the armband for the clash.
The game began with vigour from both sides, with Georg Iliev finding Wilkinson unmarked in the box in the sixth minute, only for the striker to see his shot blocked at range.
The quick pace of the game continued, with the home side putting the Whites under pressure with a number of free-kicks into the area which Harry Campbell dealt with calmly.
Neither goalkeeper had been tested as the game hit the 15 minute mark though, with each defence standing firm.
Frustration was evident on the faces of both set of players, with the lack of goalmouth action continuing.
Lewis Mansell enjoyed arguably the best opportunity of the game with 19 minutes gone as he capitalised on a loose ball in the Bolton backline, but the forward was unable to convert as, following a rush of blood to the head, he tried his luck from distance with his effort well wide of the mark.
Rob Holding made inroads for Bolton shortly after as he powered from left-back to the edge of Rovers' box, only to be dispossessed at the death.
As the game continued, the shackles on both sides seemed to loosen a little as each keeper was called into action more frequently, albeit to claim the ball from the air following numerous corners.
Odelusi almost teed up Holding for the opener with 35 minutes on the clock as he shrugged off the challenge of his man before laying the ball on for the defender, but the winger was penalised.
The deadlock looked set to be broken with five minutes of the half to go as Tanner collected the ball unmarked just inside the area, but Taylor was in the right place at the right time to head his shot off the line.
Both sides rallied inside the closing stages with Odelusi causing problems once again, but the first period ended goalless.
With no changes for either side at the break, Blackburn were the team who started strongest following the restart as Mark Edgar whipped a dangerous ball into the box inside the opening 30 seconds.
Up the other end, Odelusi attempted to play in Kaiyne Woolery, only to see his pass narrowly elude the striker with him in on goal.
Modou Cham forced Campbell into a smart save moments later with the Blackburn man firing goalwards from a tight angle, but the shot-stopper did well to get down and scoop the ball to safety.
With the game certainly livening up and with tackles flying in, Wilkinson almost drew first blood from 20 yards on the hour mark, only to see Andrew Fisher parry his shot away from danger.
The chance appeared to boost Bolton's endeavour on the attack, although Rovers almost snatched a goal against the run of play as Cham fired narrowly over the crossbar from a corner kick.
The introduction of frontman Jamie Thomas with 18 minutes remaining saw Wanderers throw men forward in their numbers in search of an elusive goal, with the striker causing problems from the outset.
Thomas looked set to make an immediate impact just a minute after his introduction as, following a powerful run down the right flank, he turned his man on the edge of the box before cleverly playing in Woolery, but there was just a bit too much on his pass for his strike partner to make an impact.
With the match heading into the final ten minutes, Lewis Travis tried his luck against Campbell only for the keeper to thwart the youngster whose effort was straight down his throat.
Maher and substitute Elliot Newby almost combined for the winner with seven minutes to go as the latter collected the full-back's pull-back, only for his shot to be blocked at the death.
It was clear to see that neither side were happy to settle for a solitary point, and with three minutes to go Wanderers were handed the perfect opportunity to snatch all three as Wilkinson was fouled in the box, with Thomas dispatching the resulting spot-kick.
With little time left, the hosts pushed in a bid to snatch a late equaliser with Bolton forced on the back-foot, but their late pressure was in vain as Wanderers held out for the victory.
Bolton: Campbell, Maher, Holding, Taylor, Boben, Perry, Iliev (Newby, 76), Lussey, Woolery, Wilkinson, Odelusi (Thomas, 72)
Subs not used: Fitzsimons, Spooner, Cvetko
Blackburn: Fisher, Travis, Edgar, Hardcastle, Hanley (Lavelle, 62), Wharton, Cham, Tomlinson, Mansell, Tanner, Wall
Subs not used: Rittenberg, Crump, Thomson, Mahoney