BOLTON defeated Millwall for the second time in just over a month to end the Lions’ five-game winning run, as Lee Gregory suffered another injury blow.
Gregory went down off the ball in the 38th minute and had to go off with David Worrall coming on and Fred Onyedinma moving up front to partner Harry Smith.
Bolton were already a goal up by then, after Josh Vela had beaten Jordan Archer with a shot from outside the box in the 17th minute.
Bolton had the ball in the net again after half an hour, but the linesman’s flag had gone up just before Liam Trotter prodded home following Archer’s save from Zach Clough’s low shot just inside the box.
Mark Beevers’ saw his angled shot deflected out for a corner as the home side dominated.
Bolton were inches away from doubling their lead in the 45th minute. Shaun Williams was dispossessed in midfield before Clough crossed for Jay Spearing whose header struck the top of Archer’s crossbar and rebounded away.
Substitute Tom Thorpe put the home side 2-0 up 12 minutes into the second half, heading home Spearing’s superb corner from the left.
Bolton were comfortable and Sammy Ameobi typified their confidence when he skipped past a tackle before sending a dangerous low shot towards goal that Archer had to push away.
With 10 minutes left Aiden O’Brien had the opportunity to pull a goal back, but from Worrall’s header he sliced a left-footed shot off target. Moments later Smith headed Mahlon Romeo’s cross just wide of Ben Alnwick’s left-hand post.
Millwall hadn’t won at Bolton in 43 years, and that was six miles down the road at Burnden Park in this month in 1973.
If their task was made much more difficult when Bolton went ahead, it looked like a mountain to climb when Gregory very slowly walked off the pitch after indicating to physio Bobby Bacic he couldn’t continue.
Smith, who this time last year was playing for Sittingbourne in the Isthmian League Division One South, could never have imagined he would be Millwall’s leading striker in November having made such a jump up the divisions in the summer.
Millwall were already one goal down at that stage, and it was difficult to make a case against Bolton deserving their lead. In Clough they have the October player of the month and one of the brightest talents in League One. Spearing, who has so much Premier League and Championship experience, is a player who can dominate and dictate games.
It was the former Liverpool midfielder calling for handball in the 17th minute after Byron Webster had blocked his effort, but Bolton got their reward anyway when Vela drove a shot into the corner beyond Archer’s reach.
Clough and Spearing combined again before the end of the half as Millwall struggled to create anything.
The difficulty Millwall faced cracking Bolton’s defence was illustrated just after the break when Onyedinma received the ball with his back to goal near the right touchline but couldn’t hold off Beevers. With Steve Morison already out, and six weeks before the transfer window opens, Gregory’s potential absence comes at a bad time.
Smith was winning his headers, but when he climbed above Thorpe to flick the ball forward it was a Bolton player quickest to the second sequence. Trotters boss Phil Parkinson had spoken about that during the week, and if his idea in bringing on Thorpe was to give his side a higher defensive barrier, he got a bonus when the midfielder sent a thumping header from Spearing’s corner past Archer. It was also from a defensive set-piece area Morison often mans.
Apart from dead-ball opportunities Clough, Vela and Spearing were a menace in open play. Clough in particular looks a brilliantly elusive player and it was Bolton who looked more likely to add to their two-goal lead.
Lions boss Neil Harris made another change with 10 minutes left, bringing on Shane Ferguson for Joe Martin to try to give Millwall more of an attacking threat from deep but Bolton, despite a mis-kick from Beevers in his own box, were defending with that typical stoutness identifiable in Parkinson’s sides.
Harris also pushed Worrall further forward, and that tactical tweak almost resulted in a way back into the game, but O’Brien arrived slightly late in the box and he couldn’t direct his effort on goal.
The away side couldn’t find the breakthrough as Bolton defeated their play-off rivals 2-0 for the second time this season, the fourth successive League One game in which a Parkinson team has kept a clean sheet against Millwall.
Image source: ©Millwall FC