Report: Port Vale 0-2 Bolton
Wanderers picked up all three points and put themselves firmly in the driving seat ahead of the final day of the season with a comfortable victory over Port Vale on Saturday.
In a goalless first period, the home side were reduced to ten men just after the half hour mark after Rigino Cicilia picked up his second booking for a handball in the area.
The deadlock was then broken with 24 minutes remaining through David Wheater’s header from a Filipe Morais free-kick, with Gary Madine adding a second with seven minutes remaining when slotting home from the edge of the area.
Wanderers made two changes to their starting XI from last time out against Bury, with Gary Madine and Jem Karacan coming into the Whites’ line-up. Jay Spearing meanwhile took the captain’s armband in the absence of the injured Darren Pratley.
Former Bolton winger Chris Eagles meanwhile lined up against his former employers for the home side.
Bolton were having to be patient inside the opening stages of the clash, with Vale defending in their numbers from the outset.
They were certainly having to bide their time, with the home side making life difficult early on with them even enjoying a handful of forays into Bolton territory.
With the game hitting the ten minute mark, Wanderers were forced onto the backfoot themselves with a succession of corners won by the Valiants.
Buoyed by their period of possession, the home side did cause a few problems for the Whites but nothing that wasn’t easily dealt with by Mark Howard and his defence.
On the counter attack meanwhile, Adam Le Fondre chased a long-ball down the right flank before finding Madine with his cross, but the big striker couldn’t hit the target from close range while he also saw a 20-yard strike narrowly clear the crossbar soon after.
It was a fairly evenly contested start at Vale Park, with neither side able to get a real foothold in the encounter.
Just after the half hour mark however, Vale were down to ten men as Cicilia was dismissed for a second bookable offence after handling the ball in the area.
It was all Wanderers after that, with Josh Vela striking a volley just wide of the mark on the stroke of half time.
Come the break however, the scores were level.
With no changes for either side, the second half got underway with Wanderers coming close inside the first minute as Madine’s header fell just off target.
The home side were struggling to contain the Whites, but on a rare foray into the Bolton box Jerome Thomas smashed an effort against the post with Howard a beaten man.
Up the other end, Karacan was causing problems for Vale and saw his cross cleared off the line with no-one available to meet it.
It was a case of all hands to the pump for ten-man Vale, with Daniel Pugh’s scorching strike flying inches wide.
Wanderers were left calling for two penalties in quick succession just before the hour mark too, with Le Fondre seemingly hauled down before the ball appeared to strike a Vale hand in the area.
Former Bolton man Eagles also saw a long-range effort fly wide of the goalmouth.
With 24 minutes remaining, the deadlock was broken as Wheater nodded home a Morais free-kick to the absolute deliria of the Bolton fans behind the goalmouth.
Following a stoppage in play due to fans invading the pitch, the game restarted.
Wanderers’ added a second meanwhile with seven minutes remaining, with Madine coolly slotting home after being found by Morais on the edge of the box.
The rest of the game passed without much of note, with Wanderers heading into the final day of the season firmly in the driving seat to secure automatic promotion back to the Sky Bet Championship.