Report: Bolton 3-2 Sheffield United
Wanderers booked their place in the Emirates FA Cup third round courtesy of victory over Sheffield United on Sunday afternoon.
The deadlock was broken on the stroke of half time as Gary Madine prodded the ball home at the near post, with Sammy Ameobi doubling the Whites’ advantage a minute after the restart with a wonderful strike from all of 25 yards.
The Blades did halve the deficit halfway through the second period through Paul Coutts’ deflected effort, but Josh Vela appeared to have put the result beyond doubt six minutes from time with a well-taken effort.
There was still time for high drama as Jack O'Connell nodded home a second for the visitors two minutes later, but it was ultimately scant consolation at the final whistle as the Trotters progressed in the competition.
Wanderers made just the one change to their starting XI from last weekend’s clash with Northampton Town, with David Wheater coming into the fray in place of Derik Osede.
Bolton started the clash brightly, with Zach Clough – who had received his PFA Fans’ Player of the Month award for October prior to kick-off – powering downfield inside three minutes only to see his threaded through-ball for Josh Vela narrowly elude his fellow academy graduate.
Sammy Ameobi was next to come close for the Whites, with the on-loan forward curling an effort inches wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s upright in the seventh minute of the clash.
The visitors weren’t there to just make up the numbers however, with Stefan Scougall nodding a Chris Hussey cross just wide of the post shortly after – a chance which breathed some life into the Blades.
Forcing Wanderers onto the backfoot for a period thereafter, the home side almost opened the scoring with a quarter of the game gone as Mark Beevers’ towering figure nodded a header narrowly away from Ramsdale’s goalmouth.
The deadlock appeared to have been broken on the half hour mark, but Ramsdale somehow managed to tip Gary Madine’s thunderous header over the crossbar.
A goalmouth scramble ensued from the resulting corner, with Beevers and then Wheater seeing efforts blocked in quick succession at point blank range.
Clough then saw his name in lights with 11 minutes of the half remaining, with his curled effort from the edge of the area whipping inches past the post with Ramsdale grounded.
Against the run of play meanwhile, Stefan Scougall somehow fired wide when he had all the time in the world to place his effort from eight yards past Alnwick.
On the stroke of half time however, Wanderers got the goal their dominance deserved as Madine prodded home at the near post to the delight of the Bolton faithful, in turn ensuring that the Whites went in at the break a goal to the good.
The second period got underway at Macron Stadium and the Trotters ensured that it was the best possible start to the half as Ameobi doubled his side’s advantage with an absolute peach of an effort from all of 25 yards.
Completely deserved, it was clear to see that Phil Parkinson’s men weren’t for resting on their laurels with a number of opportunities going begging thereafter.
The visitors however gave Bolton food for thought with 26 minutes of the clash remaining, with Coutts’ effort from distance deflecting its way past Alnwick in the Whites’ goal to halve the deficit.
A strike which ensured that the game became a tastier encounter, Wanderers were forced onto the backfoot as Chris Wilder’s men looked to capitalise on their momentum and force an equalising goal.
Despite the pressure though, the Whites steadied the ship and were rebuffing everything that was being thrown in their direction by the Blades.
Clough looked certain to restore Bolton’s two-goal lead with 12 minutes remaining after springing United’s offside trap, but the little man couldn’t get his shot on under pressure from two Sheffield bodies while Madine also saw a shot comfortably saved by Ramsdale.
With the game entering its final ten minutes, it was a case of now-or-never for the Bramall Lane outfit but Wanderers appeared to have put the result beyond doubt as Vela slotted home in the 84th minute of the clash.
United weren't finished yet however, with O'Connell nodding home two minutes later to set up a grandstand finish.
With four additional minutes indicated, it was all hands to the pump, but it was enough come the final whistle for Wanderers.