Report: Bolton 2-1 Shrewsbury Town
A first half brace from David Wheater ensured the three points went Wanderers’ way but the hosts were made to work hard for the victory as Shrewsbury Town battled their way back into a contest which should have been out of sight.
After a slow start, the big defender fired his side into an imperious position going into the break, but the lowly Shrews ensured a nervy end to proceedings when Junior Brown netted late in the game.
But Wanderers claimed the victory to bounce back from their disappointment at Chesterfield to maintain their position in the division's upper echelons.
Phil Parkinson kept faith with the same starting XI which suffered disappointment in their last outing at Chesterfield as they looked to make amends against Shrewsbury Town.
Max Clayton, returning from a lengthy lay-off through injury, found a spot on the bench, replacing Jamie Proctor who picked up a knock during the Under-23s recent victory against Leeds United.
After an edgy start which saw the visitors on top in the early stages, Wanderers almost took the lead through Tom Thorpe.
The midfielder’s header from a set-piece took a deflection and look destined to give Wanderers the lead, but somehow the ball was scrambled away off the line.
Despite confident claims from the Wanderers’ front-line, the assistant referee was unmoved and play resumed.
The chance spurred the hosts on and they enjoyed more possession in the final third as the game transpired.
With frustration threatening, Wanderers managed to break the deadlock after 24 minutes. Again, the Shrews struggled to defend a corner.
A loose ball found its way to Wheater whose initial effort cannoned off the foot of the post; he made no mistake with the follow up which he guided over the line to put his side in charge.
The big defender followed it up just three minutes later to claim his and Wanderers’ second of the afternoon. Another failure at defending a set-piece from the visitors allowed him to emphatically volley home and put Wanderers firmly in contention for a festive three points.
Shrewsbury looked dazed by the double salvo and seldom troubled Ben Alnwick despite their bright start. Louis Dodds fired high and wide deep into first half injury time to epitomise the visitors’ despondency.
The visitors made a substitution during the interval with former Wolves’ front man Sylvan Ebanks-Blake being replaced by George Waring.
And it was the visitors who almost got themselves back in the game moments after the restart after Wanderers failed to clear their lines from a corner. Junior Brown had time to place his shot but saw his effort head high over the bar without even testing Alnwick.
But Wanderers soon showed their threat as an attacking force with a slick move down the right culminating in Sammy Ameobi’s right footer being cleared for a throw-in.
Louis Dodds had a rare chance for Shrewsbury as they fought to get back into the game but his looping volley went over the Wanderers cross bar.
The tempo had slowed down somewhat but Wanderers really sought to get a third which would surely kill off the contest.
The visitors survived a huge handball claim when Dom Smith appeared to have controlled the ball illegally. Despite Gary Madine’s vociferous protests, the officials allowed the game to continue.
Zach Clough was denied a spectacular goal by Jayson Leuwiler who dived to his right to keep out the frontman’s thunderbolt. However, he was fortunate to see the ball cannon off his body and go ofor a corner.
Captain Jay Spearing came off to a rapturous applause from the 16,500 crowd as he was replaced by Derik.
Against the run of play, the visitors found a way back into the game through Brown who headed home into an empty net after Wanderers failed to clear Waring’s initial shot which rebounded off the cross bar.
Wanderers had a lucky let off when Taylor appeared to handle the ball in his own area. Although the linesman flagged referee David Webb overruled his colleague to allow the game to continue.
It was a nervy end to the game for Phil Parkinson’s men but they hung on to claim the win.