Steve Bruce’s unbeaten start as Sheffield Wednesday manager extended to nine games as goals from Steven Fletcher and Rolando Aarons gave the visitors this win over relegation-haunted Bolton.
Scotland international Fletcher grabbed his ninth league goal of the season after 43 minutes and Aarons’s first goal for the club on the hour got Wednesday back to winning ways after two draws and nudges them to just three points adrift of the play-offs. Last month the gap was 12 points.
By contrast, Phil Parkinson’s side produced a flat performance after last Saturday’s morale-boosting 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Millwall.
Not even the lift of finally getting paid their February wages from controversial chairman Ken Anderson and the imminent news of a takeover could lift Wanderers.
The visitors’ win helped them complete a league double over the Trotters for the first time since the 1982/83 season.
And for manager Bruce, he was able to celebrate a win at the University of Bolton Stadium after three defeats – including last season’s promotion setback for Aston Villa.
Wednesday had the game’s first shot on target as Fletcher tried his luck from 18 yards but goalkeeper Remi Matthews saved comfortably. A gale-force wind swirling around the ground meant both sides struggled to put together any fluency, but Wednesday managed another effort on the half hour.
Former Bolton midfielder Barry Bannan curled in a free-kick and Fletcher got his head to the ball but could only direct it straight into the arms of Matthews.
The lively Aarons unleashed a pot-shot from 22 yards that flashed wide before Fletcher made it third time lucky.
Bannan played in a quality ball behind the Bolton defensive line, centre-half Mark Beevers was caught napping and Fletcher nipped in to slide a low shot past the keeper.
Wednesday started the second half brightly and defender Michael Hector should have done better with a snap-shot.
They continued to press for a second goal and brought on a more mobile attacking option, with Sam Winnall replacing Atdhe Nuhiu after 56 minutes.
Within four minutes the Owls struck again. Adam Reach laid the ball into the path of Aarons bursting into the penalty area and the on-loan Newcastle midfielder unleashed a rasping left-foot shot high into the net.
Winnall blocked a Craig Noone shot as Wanderers laboured to find a way back into the contest, before Noone and veteran Gary O’Neil made way for Clayton Donaldson and Will Buckley.
But it was Wednesday who finished the game strongly and Matthews did well to prevent substitute Winnall getting on the scoresheet.
Bolton: Matthews, Olkowski, Hobbs, Beevers, Connolly, O’Neil (Donaldson 66), Lowe, Joe Williams (Connell 72), Noone (Buckley 66), Ameobi, Magennis. Unused substitutes: Taylor,Wilson, Ben Williams, Wheater.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Iorfa, Lees, Hector, Palmer, Reach, Hutchinson, Bannan, Aarons (Fox 87), Nuhiu (Winnall 57), Fletcher (Marco Matias 84). Unused substitutes: Pelupessy, Thorniley, Boyd, Dawson.
Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire).
Bristol City moved back into the play-off places on goal difference after being held to a 1-1 draw at home against bottom club Ipswich.
Former Town defender Adam Webster broke the deadlock with a header at the back post in the 32nd minute, while an own goal from Lloyd Kelly saw Ipswich equalise in the 68th minute.
The Robins are level on points with Derby, who host Stoke on Wednesday night.
Blackburn beat struggling Wigan 3-0 at Ewood Park, with a brace from Danny Graham.
Rovers took the lead through Graham from the penalty spot in the 39th minute.
After Latics frontman Nick Powell headed against outside post early in the second half, Graham scored again in the 54th minute when he got on the end of a long kick from the goalkeeper.
Rovers completed their victory through Bradley Dack with four minutes left.