Wanderers fell to a defeat at Hillsborough by the narrowest of margins with Lee Gregory’s second half goal proving to be decisive despite an encouraging and often dominant display by Ian Evatt’s side in South Yorkshire.
The game started off at a frantic pace and within just thirty seconds of the referee’s first whistle, Saido Berahino dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box following a rare lapse in concentration from MJ Williams who gave the ball away in dangerous territory.
Wanderers had their first chance of the game about a minute later and it certainly appeared to be a gilt-edged one. Making his return to Hillsborough, Elias Kachunga did well to rob Lewis Gibson of possession and move towards goal before opting to square the ball into the path of Eoin Doyle. The pass however was marginally behind the run of the Irishman who would’ve helped himself to a tap-in otherwise.
Dapo Afolayan was recently named as the club’s Player of the Month for the second consecutive month and he was presented with his first opportunity to get at the Wednesday defence shortly afterwards. Looking to get the better of Dominic Iorfa, the winger’s eventual shot was lashed into the side netting to let the home side off the hook.
Afolayan had Wanderers’ next decent effort at goal just before the quarter hour mark in what had been a lively start to the game in South Yorkshire. After seeing his initial shot from 25 yards out blocked, the ball came back into his path and he lashed a half volley which fizzed a yard or two wide of Joe Wildsmith’s right-hand post.
Antoni Sarcevic was the next to go close with a fizzing drive from distance that went narrowly over the bar, with Jaden Brown bobbling a shot wide of the mark at the other end after the Wednesday left-back had ventured forward and up to the edge of the box.
Doyle was in the right place at the right time to conjure up Wanderers’ next opportunity, but he saw a shot from close range blocked importantly by a couple of Wednesday defenders who had monitored him closely. The ball had come to him via Kachunga’s cross after Afolayan had led the counter attack with real menace.
Wednesday had a couple of opportunities themselves before the half-time whistle; Lee Gregory’s header was kept out brilliantly by Joel Dixon after Barry Bannan had supplied a cross from the left, and Berahino lashed a shot into the side netting after getting the better of Ricardo Almeida Santos.
Right on the whistle, Declan John curled a free-kick agonisingly wide of the post from just outside the box after some fantastic individual play by Kieran Lee to draw a foul.
Wednesday made a couple of changes at the break to try inject some spark into their performance, with Dennis Adeniran and Chey Dunkley coming onto the field. However, it was Wanderers who had the first couple of chances of the second half.
Gethin Jones supplied the attack with a surge forward and a ball into the box that fell to Doyle, but his close range effort was somehow kept out by Wildsmith.
The next chance was created by Afolayan. The winger picked up the ball inside the Wednesday box, and under pressure from a defender he managed to dig out a cross to the far post which was helped towards goal by John – unfortunately the ball struck Doyle before going behind for a goal kick.
Lee was excellent in the heart of the Wanderers midfield on his return to the old stomping ground, and after he had caused problems inside the Wednesday box, he eventually fashioned an opportunity for Sarcevic who saw a powerful effort towards goal blocked.
Moving on from the hour mark, Paterson saw a well-struck shot from the edge of the box go a yard or so over the bar before the home side took the lead. Jack Hunt delivered an excellent low cross from the right-hand side and it was turned in from close range by Gregory.
Jones saw a shot blocked by substitute Dunkley after good work by Doyle inside the box, and just six minutes after coming on Amadou Bakayoko was inches away from turning the ball in at the far post after latching onto John’s cross.
Wanderers had the home side on the ropes in the latter stages of the game including a hefty six additional minutes, but Darren Moore's side held on for a narrow victory.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith, Hunt, Iorfa, Gibson (Adeniran 46), Brown (Shodipo 74), Palmer, Bannan, Hutchinson (Dunkley 46), Paterson, Berahino, Gregory.
Unused Subs: Render, Corbeanu, Wing, Kamberi.
Bookings: Iorfa, Shodipo.
Goal: Gregory (66)
Bolton Wanderers: Dixon, Jones, Almeida Santos, Johnston, John, Williams, Lee, Sarcevic (Sheehan 74), Kachunga (Isgrove 74), Afolayan, Doyle (Bakayoko 74).
Unused Subs: Gordon, Baptiste, Thomason, Delfouneso.
Bookings: Jones, Afolayan.
Attendance: 23,692 (3,187 visitors).