Huddersfield Town 2 Bolton Wanderers 1: Wells nets sweet winner

Chris Powell
Chris Powell
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AN 84TH-MINUTE strike from substitute Nahki Wells earned Huddersfield Town a sweet Roses victory over Bolton Wanderers at a freezing John Smith’s Stadium.

The goal from Wells, his tenth of the campaign, helped Town make amends for their desperately disappointing Boxing Day draw at Rotherham, when the hosts came from two-nil down to take an unlikely late point.

This time around, the pendulum deservedly swung in Town’s favour, with a gutsy and workaholic display rewarding of victory.

That said, Town did it the hard way after Bolton - who went into the game on the back of an eight-match unbeaten streak - took the lead after just 42 seconds courtesy of Darren Pratley.

But ex-Wanderers loanee Jacob Butterfield drew Town level with a fine strike just before half-time and Wells’ tenth goal of the campaign after latching onto Jonathan Hogg’s pass six minutes from time ensured a happy if belated Christmas for Huddersfield.

The icy blast that has affected swatches of England did not spare Huddersfield, with the John Smith’s Stadium bathed in winter sun, but with some areas, notably by the far touchline and the goalmouth in front of the away stand, affected by ice.

But with conditions soft underfoot and Town utilising their undersoil heating system, the game was never in doubt.

Town made one change from the side who started the Boxing Day derby at Rotherham United 48 hours earlier, with Hogg, ruled out of the clash at the New York Stadium due to illness, replacing Grant Holt, who injured his knee in the second half of the dramatic 2-2 draw with the Millers.

It marked the end of Holt’s involvement with Town, with the veteran striker due to return to the fold at Wigan Athletic tomorrow, with his loan spell at Huddersfield expiring after the Roses clash with Bolton.

Chris Powell, mindful of Bolton’s system, gave licence for Harry Bunn and Sean Scannell to support lone frontman James Vaughan, starting his second game in two days as he continues to get valuable game time under his belt after an injury-hit opening half of the campaign.

Bolton chief Neil Lennon, whose in-form Wanderers side made the short trip east along the M62 in fine fettle, boasting an eight-match unbeaten streak to harbour hopes of a play-off tilt, also made just one change from the team who started the Lancashire derby victory over Blackburn Rovers at the Macron Stadium on Boxing Day.

Liam Trotter came in for Rob Hall, with Emile Heskey, who netted on his return to English football against Rovers, on the bench once again.

Buoyed by their side’s impressive upturn under Lennon, a big following of Wanderers supporters headed across the border to Yorkshire, with the mood of their supporters in marked contrast to those of Town.

That was further improved after just 42 seconds with Wanderers taking the lead in emphatic fashion.

Awarded a free-kick on the left, Lee’s free-kick was only half-cleared, with Pratley smashing the ball high past Alex Smithies from 15 yards out, with his fierce effort flying in off the underside of the bar.

After the crushing finish to the game at Rotherham, it represented the nightmare start for Town, who produced an insipid performance in their previous home game with Birmingham.

A big test of character ensued against vibrant visitors, who looked every inch a side in good order in the opening ten minutes.

Town did provide one semi-threatening moment early on with a hanging cross by Smith latched onto by Wallace, whose header was diverted wide by Matt Mills, but the corner came to nothing.

It was Bolton, who possessed the poise, clever movement and slickness with it hard in the early stages to escape from the impression that it was the Lancastrians who were the home side.

Gradually, Huddersfield pieced together their first decent passing move, with the ball finding Jacob Butterfield, with the one-time Bolton loanee seeing his shot deflected wide.

It was at least encouragement for Town, who soon produced a couple more moments of note in quick succession, with Vaughan seeing his close-range shot saved by Andy Lonergan after Scannell’s initial effort was blocked before the ex-Leeds United custodian turned away a deflected effort from Bunn.

Town were nothing if not persistent, forcing eight corners in the first 23 minutes, without the requisite quality which was provided in a choice moment from Bolton three minutes after the half-hour mark.

Trotter seized upon a loose ball and picked out Eidur Gudjohnsen, whose exquisite movement sent him clear of the Town defence, with the former Chelsea and Barcelona frontman then seeing his point-blank shot turned away brilliantly by Smithies, who made a splendid one-handed block.

Shots off target from Butterfield and Bunn flew over the top for Town, who certainly weren’t guilty of not having a go as they started to harrass Bolton, who had plenty of their own way in the opening half an hour.

Town’s intent was rewarded on 43 minutes with a well-taken leveller from Butterfield.

The ball found its way to the former Bolton loanee on the right and he unleashed a pinpoint angled shot which beat Lonergan to restore parity at just the right time for the hosts.

If anything, Bolton were maybe guilty of letting their tempo drop after a comfortable opening, but they produced a quickfire response to the shock of Town drawing level, with a sharp move ending in Danns seeing his shot held by Smithies.

On the restart, Town almost provided a telling moment seconds in with a precision pass from Wallace sending Vaughan clear on goal, but Lonergan, increasingly busy enough after a quiet start, raced out to block.

Town’s supporters, subdued by Bolton’s riproaring start, were increasingly buying into the hosts’ efforts with the hosts tempo and work-rate pronounced.

The wily Gudjohnsen then won a free-kick in a dangerous position after drawing a foul from Mark Hudson, but his effort was blocked by Vaughan.

Scannell, who kept going all the game, then looked like he had manufactured a clear-cut chance for Bunn, but he couldn’t get a clean connection in front of the Bolton fans, singing for the introduction of Heskey.

Ir duly arrived on 67 minutes, with the former England striker’s introduction having the effect of pepping up the visitors.

Heskey did have the ball in the net on 75 minutes, but a linesman’s flag quickly nipped any celebrations in the bud, while at the other end, Town attempted to manufacture that telling chance they craved.

Powell, no doubt mindful of the restorative effects of a win as opposed to a draw, played his first hand with just under a quarter of an hour to go with Nahki Wells coming on for Bunn.

It was unlikely source who almost provided the breakthrough nine minutes from time, with a rising shot from Jack Robinson tipped over expertly by Lonergan.

But Town were finally rewarded for an industrious display not too long after, when Hogg’s incisive ball saw fleet-footed Wells hare away from the Wanderers defence before coolly stroking the ball past Lonergan.

It the cue to much celebrations, but Town had to withstand strong late pressure to claim the precious points, with Bolton awarded two dangerous free-kicks late on by referee Kettle, but each came to nothing.

Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Smith, Hudson, Wallace, Robinson; Scannell, Hogg, Coady, Butterfield (Gerrard 90); Bunn (Wells 76); Vaughan (Hammill 84). Unused substitutes: Allinson, Lolley, Gobern, Peltier.

Bolton Wanderers: Lonergan; Vela, Mills, Dervite, Ream; Trotter (Wheater 88), Pratley (Heskey 68), Danns, Feeney; Lee; Gudjohnsen (Hall 80). Unused substitutes: Bogdan, Moxey, Spearing, Clough.

Referee: T Kettle (Rutland).