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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » Big Match Verdict: Wanderers singing in the rain as they hit four at Charlton

Big Match Verdict: Wanderers singing in the rain as they hit four at Charlton

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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Wanderers flexed their midweek muscles once again to pile pressure on Charlton boss Nigel Adkins.

Ian Evatt’s men – unbeaten in 18 Tuesday night games – came from behind to leave fans at The Valley calling for their manager’s head in the pouring South London rain.

Dapo Afolayan had put Bolton on level terms just before half time – something which felt rather unjust given the balance of play - but two goals from Kieran Lee and a textbook finish in injury time from Antoni Sarcevic were no less than the Whites deserved for a brilliant effort after the break.

Evatt made four changes to the team beaten at Sunderland, bringing in Alex Baptiste, Declan John, Elias Kachunga and Kieran Lee for Lloyd Isgrove, George Johnston, Liam Gordon and Josh Sheehan.

Isgrove’s absence had been expected after the head injury he sustained at the Stadium of Light but the decision to drop three other starters from Saturday to the bench raised eyebrows prior to kick-off.

For the eighth time in 10 league outings this season, Wanderers found themselves a goal down – a trait that is starting to border on the annoying.

The Whites retained possession fastidiously from the opening whistle, passing the ball back and forth between defenders and goalkeeper to try and draw Charlton out of their shape.

But it became clear in the first few minutes that Jonathan Leko would be the out-ball for Charlton on their right side, and that John’s return to the first team line-up would be a bumpy ride indeed.

Josh Davison could hardly have wished for better service as he opened up the scoring on 12 minutes, as Alex Baptiste’s mis-placed pass in midfield was punished with clinical precision.

Charlton threatened to do that on a couple of occasions after that, with each turnover looking like it could result in a second goal.

The nearest they got was Elliott Lee’s fierce drive which drifted an inch-or-so wide of Joel Dixon’s right-hand post.

Corey Blackett-Taylor also stabbed a shot into the side-netting, so as his thoughts started to drift toward the half-time break, Evatt must have been plotting an unpleasant turn of phrase to wake his players out of their malaise.

Charlton’s fans sang ironically that they were “staying up” – which is surely a given with the players at Nigel Adkins’s disposal – but their dominance was soon contested.

Elias Kachunga had been a fairly peripheral figure in his first league start until the 40th minute when he spun 20 yards out and played a perfectly weighted pass for the overlapping Gethin Jones, whose shot wasn’t good enough to beat Craig MacGillivray.

Moments later, Antoni Sarcevic turned provider for Afolayan on the left edge of the box – his effort tipped wide by the Charlton keeper at full stretch, a fact not spotted by referee Lee Swabey, who awarded a goal kick.

The lights had been switched on at last. And Bolton grabbed an equaliser to probably spare themselves the worst of their manager’s scorn.

Afolayan cut in from the left to drive a daisy-cutter at goal, and as Kieran Lee skipped over the ball MacGillivray was unsighted and the shot nestled beautifully into the bottom corner.

Wanderers had certainly not been at their best in the first 45 minutes so must have been fairly pleased to have jogged back down the tunnel on level terms.

As the heavens opened in the second half, the speed and ferocity of the football on offer increased.

At first that played into the hands of the hosts, who nearly profited from a scramble in the box after Leko had pulled a cross back from the right. Soon after that, some superb covering from Alex Baptiste prevented the same man from running in on goal from halfway after John had been caught up-field in an attack.

Wanderers then started to find their stride again and came within inches of taking the lead themselves as Kachunga’s flicked header from Jones’s cross skimmed the upright.

The woodwork then came into play at the other end as Davison curled a fine effort from the edge of the box only to see it glance off the outside of the post.

The game entered into the last quarter finely poised and a winner nearly impossible to predict. And then the unlikeliest goalscoring hero stepped forward in the driving rain.

Kieran Lee had scored a couple in League Two last season but this year looked like he left his shooting boots down at Crawley in the promotion celebrations. He had also been unfairly denied one against Burton after a dodgy offside was given against Eoin Doyle.

But when Gethin Jones surged forward to provide yet another good cross from the right, he finished with the calmness and poise of a seasoned striker to send the 888 fans behind the same goal into delirium.

Those same supporters could hardly believe their eyes when he did the same again eight minutes later, finishing smartly after Afolayan’s initial shot was saved by MacGillivray.

Eight minutes of added time meant extra misery for the home supporters, who were left chanting “we want Adkins out” as Sarcevic sliced through to round the keeper and score the fourth.

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