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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » MARC ILES' BIG-MATCH VERDICT: Newport 1-0 Bolton


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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Wasteful Wanderers waved goodbye to their unbeaten record at Rodney Parade but must be scratching their heads and wondering exactly how.

Goals have deserted Ian Evatt’s men at the worst possible time – and it was with another blank that they left South Wales.

Nicky Maynard’s second-half strike sealed the points yet Bolton could point to any one of several first-half chances and an incredible injury time scramble as to why they should have been at least on level terms.

The talking point will be a late Alex Baptiste header which looked as if it had crossed the line – with Eoin Doyle and several other bodies flying in to force home a goal.

Wanderers need no reminder of how cruel such a goal can be in the final reckonings of a season. One can only hope it does not prove so again.

The last time a Wanderers side went 15 games undefeated in the league was in 1997 as Colin Todd’s exciting side sealed promotion to the Premier League and bid farewell to Burnden Park in the most fitting way imaginable.

That same side ended up being relegated by a single goal, and will forever point to one that should have stood in the Reebok Stadium’s opening game.

Newport were returning to Rodney Parade for the first time in a couple of months having been granted EFL approval to play their home games at Cardiff for a short spell.

The reason was to give their notoriously poor playing surface – which they share with the Gwent Dragons rugby union side - some rest. And though the club plan to resurface in the summer, there was no question by the way Bolton’s players and coaching staff forensically scoured the surface in the warm-up that it was playing on people’s minds.

It was a day when the quality of a player’s first touch was really put to the test – and the first one that Doyle had on the day very nearly ended up in the back of the net.

The Irishman latched on to a perfect cross from Lloyd Isgrove and walloped his first-time volley against the crossbar.

Within a matter of seconds, Matt Gilks had pulled off a marvellous save to deny Maynard at the other end.

The football was fast and furious but the real quality was coming from the men in white and while they always had to be mindful of the Welshmen’s threat at set pieces and long throws, their counter attacking was textbook.

Doyle had the next chance, racing on to a ball knocked over the top and getting around keeper Nick Townsend but his pull back was cleared behind amid big shouts of a handball from the Bolton technical area.

Declan John looked a perfect outlet on the left, his pace regularly allowing him to get down the sides of the Newport back three. He had one effort deflected into the side netting before George Thomason – back in the side for Dapo Afolayan – followed suit a few moments later.

Kieran Lee had a first half to forget in front of goal. The midfielder linked-up play and got about the pitch in the same manner we have come to expect but he should have run back down the tunnel with a hat-trick.

His first chance was a stab wide at the near post which left him with his head in his hands. Arguably, it was the easiest of the three chances which fell his way.

Before the break both Gethin Jones and Isgrove picked him out with pin-point precision from the right flank only for the midfielder to fail to get a proper touch to send it into the net.

Newport’s five midfielders walked back in bickering between them at who should be picking up Lee and Co, which was a positive sign. The question was, could Bolton do that again, and make it count?

The home side switched system, moving to a back four at the break, a tell-tale sign that manager Mike Flynn was not entirely happy with what he was seeing.

But that threat from set pieces never disappeared and after a relatively benign start to the second half, the Exiles grabbed the opening goal out of nowhere.

Sheehan’s free kick bounced off Ricardo Santos and forced Gilks into another good save to his left. Sniffing around was ex-Bury hitman Maynard, lapping up the sort of chance he has made a career out of converting.

Evatt reacted with a triple sub, dropping Lee back in midfield and bringing Zack Elbouzedi, Marcus Maddison and Afolayan on for Nathan Delfouneso, Isgrove and MJ Williams.

With that unbeaten run at stake, Wanderers had to come up with some answers in the last 15 minutes.

Elbouzedi nearly did just that, skipping through midfield to deliver a clever pass out for Afolayan. The West Ham youngster cut a cross back for John, who shot low but could only find the side netting.

Any momentum Wanderers were trying to create was nearly cut short when Maynard again wriggled free in the penalty box, bringing a good stop out of Gilks.

As the seconds ticked down and became more precious, Newport wasted every one of them they possibly could.

Maddison took it upon himself to make a headline, cutting in from the right wing to blast a shot from 35 yards which had keeper Townsend worried.

Elbouzedi then wasted a good chance on the edge of the box, firing wide after a fine run down the left from Afolayan.

With two minutes left on the clock, John sent a dipping cross towards Gethin Jones at the far post, the ball just dipping past him at the crucial moment.

The scramble in injury time was frantic. Baptiste’s header looked to cross the line but referee Graham Salisbury waved away the appeals.

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