Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Ipswich Town: Disjointed Blues beaten for first time under McKenna
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Ipswich Town suffered their first defeat under Kieran McKenna as Bolton Wanderers ran out 2-0 winners this afternoon.
The Blues headed into the game on the back of two excellent wins under their new boss, but came undone as Kieran Lee and Dapo Afolayan struck in the second half to secure three deserved points for the hosts.
Wanderers had lost their five previous games, heading into this clash, but the Blues faded after a bright start as the hosts took control of the contest as they punished sloppy Ipswich moments to ultimately claim the points.
Lee scored the first, as he snaffled up the rebound after Christian Walton had spilled Aaron Morley’s shot, before George Edmundson woefully under-hit his back-pass to the goalkeeper to allow Afolayan to kill the game off.
The Blues had chances, with Sone Aluko testing the goalkeeper from outside the box and Luke Woolfenden having a header saved. But, in truth, the Blues lacked a cutting edge in the final third and looked disjointed at times on an afternoon where frustration kicked in.
The loss leaves Town 11th in the League One table, with the gap to the play-offs still eight points, heading into next weekend’s game with Accrington Stanley.
McKenna named an unchanged side to the one which won so comfortably at Gillingham a week ago, with the only switch in the matchday squad seeing Bersant Celina return to the bench in place of striker Kayden Jackson.
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Aluko took up a central role behind James Norwood and Macauley Bonne, who had his loan for the rest of the season locked in on Friday night, with the Blues on the attack early and looking to string together attacking moves in Bolton territory.
The hosts were taking risks, looking to play out from the back whenever possible, but nearly got themselves in trouble on a couple of occasions inside the opening 10 minutes, with Town night quite able to take advantage.
Bolton’s debut-making keeper, James Trafford, was the first of the two stoppers called into action as he fell to his left to push Aluko’s low shot away, before Bonne kept play alive and teed up Lee Evans to hit a thunderous shot which was blocked on its route to goal.
The first home chance came and went as Kieran Lee’s whipped cross was headed well wide by Dion Charles, before George Johnston headed over the top after the hosts had taken a corner short.
Evans was next to try his luck for Town, seeing his shot turned round the post by Trafford, after Burns had won the ball back for the Blues, in what was an increasingly end-to-end contest.
Woolfenden and Edmundson both had to make crucial interventions to stop Wanderers players after they had wriggled free inside the box, as the hosts had increasing moments of joy against the Ipswich back three.
Wanderers were by far the better side in the closing stages of the first half, with goalkeeper Walton booked for sliding outside the box with the ball in his arms as he rushed out to meet another dangerous through-ball into Ipswich territory. Thankfully Woolfenden was able to head both the resulting free-kick and then corner away to safety.
The hosts continued to apply pressure, with Amadou Bakayoko just failing to reach a clever ball across the ball as he flung himself to the floor to stretch in acres of space, before Gethin Jones rocketed a shot over the top of the crossbar to end the half.
The Blues had managed to reach the break intact, in the face of Bolton pressure, with McKenna’s visitors returning on the front foot at the start of the second half as Aluko twisted to fire a shot just wide after Bolton had gifted possession to Town.
Aluko, by now operating in a wider role, then had another shot, this time deflected wide by Ricardo Santos, but Town were become a little clogged up in possession and weren’t able to play the ball around with the ease with which they would like.
McKenna’s first move from the bench was to replace Norwood and Matt Penney with Bersant Celina and Kane Vincent-Young, but the visitors fell behind before the managers’ changes had bedded in.
A Bolton break found Aaron Morley on the edge of the box, with the new signing’s shot wrong-footing Walton, who could only push the rebound into the path of Lee, who gobbled up the rebound. Town appealed for offside, but nothing came.
Town had a quick chance to respond, as Woolfenden met a Lee Evans cross, but the defender could only head straight at grateful Wanderers keeper Trafford.]
Then, disaster struck, as Edmundson looked to lay the ball back to Walton, but left it well short to allow Afolayan to thump home.
From there, the game was up.
Bolton Wanderers (4-2-3-1): Trafford, Jones Aimson, (90+1), Santos, Johnstone, John; Williams, Lee, Morley; Fossey, Bakayoko (Delfouneso 90+1), Charles (Afolayan, 70)
Subs: Dixon, Thomason, Baptiste, Gordon
Ipswich Town (3-4-3): Walton; Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson; Burns, Morsy, Evans, Penney (Vincent-Young, 70); Aluko, Norwood (Celina, 70), Bonne
Subs: Hladky, Burgess, Carroll, Pigott