Bolton Wanderers 1 Boro 2
GOALS from Grant Leadbitter and Kike saw Boro win for the first time in Bolton since 1987. Writes GORDON COX from the Macron Stadium.
Their first win at this stadium, it was the first time they had come from behind to win away since December 2011.
The Boro side showed three changes from that which lost at Leeds. Daniel Ayala, Dean Whitehead and Adam Reach dropped to the bench as Seb Hines returned and Emilio Nsue and Adam Clayton started for the first time.
Dougie Freedman made two changes from the side which drew here with Forest on Saturday. Liam Feeney and Liam Trotter started as Neil Danns and Medo Kamara dropped to the bench.
That meant a first start against his old club for David Wheater.
Boro made a positive start and were not far from taking the lead when Kike lobbed just over when set up by George Friend inside the penalty area.
That chance came with just 38 seconds played and less than a minute later Bolton were under pressure again. This time is was a linesman’s flag that stopped a move which was just about to set up another chance.
It took the home side six minutes to shape an attack, Joe Mason turning on the halfway line to set up a move which ended when Liam Feeney cleared the bar from 20 yards. By then Lee Tomlin had forced a save from Adam Bogdan with a shot when just up from the right-hand edge of the penalty area.
A few minutes later and Boro were at it again, Wheater this time blocking a shot from Kike which at the very least would have forced Bogdan into further action.
Gradually Wanderers got to grips with what Boro were doing and although the visitors retained the majority of possession, they had to exercise the virtue of patience.
Grant Leadbitter was the heartbeat of a midfield that kept everything moving efficiently, but chances became less frequent and the game more compact.
With 27 minutes played Craig Davies raced onto a long ball over the top. He had Hines and Omeruo for company as he raced through the middle and into the penalty area. There he fell under challenge from Hines who was shown a yellow card and Davies thrashed the ball home from the spot.
Now Bolton were more comfortable on the ball and with a touch more composure could have gone two up when executing a well-worked free-kick. But Wheater miskicked, Boro broke and won a corner.
With just over five minutes of the half remaining Tomlin went down inside the penalty area but despite appeals nothing was given. Boro don’t usually get penalties away from home.
That was about to change.
Entering first-half injury-time Kike flicked the ball up inside the penalty area and the referee adjudged Wheater to have controlled with his hand.
Up stepped Grant Leadbitter to send Bogdan the wrong way from the spot to equalise on the night with Boro’s first penalty of 2014, their first away for 19 months and first they had scored away for 21 months.
Half-time: Bolton Wanderers 1 Middlesbrough 1
Again Boro started the half well. More possession than their hosts, more energy but no way through as Bolton stood firm.
With their first concerted effort of the half, 12 minutes into it, Bolton forced the first real action from Tomas Mejias. Two good clearing punches dealt with crosses from either flank, though Lee Chung-Yong wasn’t too far off target when latching on to volley one of them.
Shortly after Friend became the third Boro booking of the game, Aitor Karanka made his first change, replacing Nsue with Reach.
Midway through half Wanderers, or more specifically Lee, created a great chance to regain the lead. The Korean did well to take control near the halfway line, lay it off, then run in behind Boro’s rearguard and send over a low cross which picked out Feeney who shot over the bar.
Back came Boro, the game now more stretched and Reach forced Bogdan to tip over when unleashing a terrific left-footed volley from just inside the penalty area before Tomlin shot powerfully, but straight a Bogdan twice from outside the area.
Tomlin was instrumental in Boro’s second goal as he picked out Reach who slid over a low cross to find Kike whose shot carried sufficient power despite a deflection to beat Bogdan.
Bolton thought they had drawn level with just less than 10 minutes remaining, but one sub was adjudged to have pushed another as Jermaine Beckford levered Ayala off the ball before tapping in.
Ayala’s introduction meant a reshuffle as Hines moved to right-back and Damia Abella moved further up the right and Albert Adomah further up to support Kike. The desire remained the same and despite a series of missed opportunities to make the win more comfortable, Boro saw the job through.
“Just like in Cardiff we beat you 2-1” was the song from the Boro fans as they left the stadium.
Scorers Davies, 27, (pen); Leadbitter, 45, (pen); Kike, 77.
Bolton Wanderers: Bogdan; McNaughton (White.90+4), Mills, Ream, Wheater, Feeney, Spearing (Capt.), Trotter (Danns 82), Lee, Mason, Davies (Beckford 82). Subs: Lonergan (gk); Dervite, Medo, Pratley. Order of subs on 82 1) Danns 2) Beckford
Middlesbrough: Mejias; Abella, Omeruo, Hines, Friend, Adomah, Clayton (Ayala 78), Leadbitter (Capt.), Nsue (Reach 62), Tomlin (Whitehead 89), Kike. Subs: Konstantopoulos (gk); Husband, L Williams, Fewster.
Referee Stephen Martin
Bolton Wanderers Feeney, 52, foul; Wheater, 68, dissent.
Middlesbrough Omeruo, 11, foul Hines, 27, foul; Friend, 61, foul.
Attendance 13,847 (1,297 Boro)
Conditions Cool and dry with a very light breeze.
Possession: Bolton Wanderers 50% Middlesbrough 50%
Website Boro Man of the Match: Damia Abella