REPORT: Wanderers v Shrewsbury Town

Two more top-quality goals from Antoni Sarcevic and Dapo Afalayan capped a perfect few days for Wanderers as they got the home fires burning to stay with the pace at the top end of the table.

Sarcevic and Afalayan had both been on target in Tuesday night’s thumping win at Charlton and they repeated the dose as Ian Evatt’s men secured their second win of the season at the University of Bolton Stadium.

Top scorer Afalayan took his tally for the season to seven, while Sarcevic made it three with an outstanding opener.

And while their quick-fire double didn’t set up the convincing win it briefly threatened, street-wise Wanderers did enough thanks to Joel Dixon’s penalty save to ride out a late threat from the visitors after Luke Leahy’s 89th-minute free-kick had made it a nervy finish.

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Unsurprisingly, the team that had started the mid-week win at Charlton was largely untouched, with the return of George Johnston the only change.

Johnston and central defensive sidekick Ricardo Santos were asked questions early on with both making telling interventions in a bright start from the visitors.

But, crucially, the first goal came Wanderers’ way thanks to a bit of magic from the captain.

Sarcevic had suggested ahead of the game that goals shouldn’t be the only gauge of a player’s form.

But the midfield man – who endured a brief but unhappy spell at Shrewsbury five years ago – wouldn’t mind being judged on this one.

Afolayan played a key role in getting Wanderers up the pitch with a typical surge forward before Kieran Lee kept the momentum going with a pass to Sarcevic.

The skipper was still a long way from goal but he had nothing in his mind but cutting in and curling a beauty into the top corner from 25 yards.

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Not to be outdone, Afolayan then got in on the act with a superb strike of his own only five minutes later as Wanderers’ doubled their lead within the opening quarter.

This time the wingman located the bottom corner following another elusive run in a near carbon-copy of his effort at The Valley.

Moving the ball around in typically fluid fashion, Wanderers looked as though they might run away with things.

But to Shrewsbury’s credit they didn’t roll over and the side without an away win all season would have been back in the hunt by the break but for a remarkable block in front of goal to keep out an Elliott Bennett effort by the outstanding Santos.

And if that was a reprieve for Wanderers they enjoyed another one 10 minutes into a second half which started with Lloyd Isgrove on at right-back for the injured Ethan Jones.

Ryan Bowman was given the chance to halve the deficit from the penalty spot after Sarcevic had tripped Shaun Whalley but Dixon won the battle of wits to palm away his effort and maintain Bolton’s breathing space.

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Wanderers needed a spark to regain the initiative and Evatt sent on the fit-again Amadou Bakayoko to try and provide it.

The striker looked full of running but the Whites couldn’t fashion another big chance to kill off the contest.

And when Leahy curled in a late free-kick - awarded against Santos who handled after thinking off-side had been given - it made an anxious countdown before confirmation of a first home win in three attempts which keeps Wanderers looking upwards.

Wanderers: Dixon; Jones (Isgrove HT), Santos, Johnston, John; Williams; Afolayan, Lee (Sheehan 78), Sarcevic, Kachunga; Doyle (Bakayoko 71). Substitutes: Delfouneso, Thomason, Baptiste, Gordon.

Booked: Santos

Shrewsbury: Marosi; Pennington, Ebanks-Landell, Pierre; Bennett, Whalley (Ogbeta 80), Davis, Leahy, Nurse; Udoh (Cosgrove 75), Bowman (Bloxham 75). Substitutes: Burgoyne, Pyke, Caton, Leshabela.


Referee: Marc Edwards

Attendance: 14,124

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Read Time: 3 mins