Gary Madine's first half strike proved to be enough as Bolton Wanderers picked up a priceless away victory against Sheffield United.
It was a determined and resolute display by Phil Parkinson’s men who played with pride and passion throughout the contest as they ensured they ended 2017 on a high.
The Wanderers made a total of five changes from the side that lost to Middlesbrough on Boxing Day with Adam Le Fondre, Reece Burke, Josh Cullen, Filipe Morais and Antonee Robinson all returning to the starting XI. Sammy Ameobi, Andrew Taylor were ruled out with injuries and Craig Noone was left out after having flu symptoms, while Mark Little and Josh Vela dropped to the bench.
With the changes came a switch in the system with Wanderers returning to three centre backs and two wing backs, Karl Henry, Darren Pratley and Cullen in the middle with Madine and Le Fondre up top.
Bolton Wanderers didn’t waste any time in settling into their new shape and appeared comfortable and at ease during the opening moments of the contest.
Gary Madine, with Adam Le Fondre, alongside him was busy as ever and the Wanderers wing-backs, Filipe Morais and Antonee Robinson, were looking to get early crosses in from either flank.
The hosts, by contrast, were giving the ball away cheaply in midfield and somewhat lacking in rhythm.
The visitors had an industry about them and a determination to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
And that they did thanks to Madine who prodded home from close range to convert a splendid low centre from Robinson who was causing mayhem with his pace over on the left flank.
It was a perfect response from the Wanderers Number 14 who was jeered throughout by the Blades faithful, courtesy of his Sheffield Wednesday connections.
The Blades then survived a strong penalty claim after Madine was pushed to the ground shortly afterwards. The referee, Stephen Martin, was unmoved and ignored the vehement appeals.
A rare opportunity fell United’s way later in the half when a loose ball found its way to substitute George Baldock, but a strong hand from Ben Alnwick preserved Wanderers’ lead at the expense of a corner.
The hosts stepped up their attacking threat and Alnwick once again came to Wanderers’ rescue after he got his body in the way of a Leon Clarke effort after the big striker sprung the offside trap to go one-on-one with the ‘keeper.
United started the half in the ascendancy determined to restore parity but Wanderers were resolute.
Madine had his name taken by the referee not long after the restart for a foul on Richard Stearman, which seemed a little harsh to say the least.
The Wanderers striker was always at the centre of attention and an inventive flick created a chance for himself when he tried to cyurl the ball around Simon Moore only for the Blades shot-stopper to parry it away.
Clayton Donaldson came on for the ineffective Billy Sharp has Blades boss Chris Wilder attemped to seize the initiative his team found themselves in.
Parkinson made a change of his own shortly afterwards with Little coming on for Morais.
The momentum was still with the hosts though and not for the first time Alnwick got down brilliantly to keep out Baldock who looked certain to equalise.
Adam Armstrong came on for the hard working Le Fondre after 75 minutes with Wanderers still looking solid but hopefully looking to increase their lead.
Wanderers’ final substitution of the contest game with eight minutes to go with Josh Vela coming on for the outstanding Cullen.
Despite their being six minutes of added time, Wanderers hung on to claim their first away victory of the campaign and end 2017 on a high.