Though Phil Parkinson and his side were told a few hours before kick-off that their wages had finally been paid by Ken Anderson – some 12 days late – they could not cash-in against an unimpressive Wednesday, who hardly had to get out of second gear to claim three points.
Steven Fletcher and Rolando Aarons did the damage either side of half time, creating the only real moments of quality in a poor game and leaving Wanderers’ weekend victory against Millwall looking little more than another false dawn.
It has been more than 12 months since Bolton strung two home wins together and they rarely looked like doing so here.
The home crowd bustled with whispers about an imminent takeover prior to kick-off and potentially the end of the financial problems which have plagued the club for so long. That energy never quite reached the players, and their performance on the night can be best described as sluggish.
Parkinson made two changes, bringing back Jason Lowe – captain for the night – and Craig Noone after suspension. The unlucky two were Andy Taylor and Will Buckley, who were both relegated to the bench.
There was actually a good rhythm about Bolton early on. Sammy Ameobi and Pawel Olkowski were heavily involved as Wednesday were pinned inside their own half.
Clear-cut chances were at a premium, although Noone had one shot deflected into the side netting after cutting in from the left edge of the penalty box.
Wanderers played some decent stuff in the opening 20 minutes but as the wind started to tear around the stadium and affect the football, the quality dropped dramatically.
Wednesday seemed equally toothless. Atdhe Nuhiu’s header from Barry Bannan’s cross was as dangerous as Steve Bruce’s side got at the game approached half time, mirroring the non-event we had watched against Millwall.
Parkinson was just thinking about making his way down from his gantry perch for the half time team-talk when the Owls conjured a goal out of nowhere.
Nuhiu combined with Bannan, and the Scot slid in a silky pass towards his compatriot Fletcher, whose clip over the advancing Matthews was equally as classy.
Panicked at suddenly finding themselves behind, Wanderers nearly conceded a second in stoppage time. Bannan’s corner bounced dangerously around the six-yard box and Dominic Iorfa volleyed into the hands of Matthews.
There was little sign of improvement after the break as Magennis started to look an isolated figure up front and Ameobi, whose impact had long-since lessened, searched deeper and deeper for the ball.
By comparison, Wednesday raised their tempo and got the pacey Newcastle United loanee Rolando Aarons into the game. Matthews raced off his line to clear one chance off the youngster’s toe but, sure enough, a better opportunity followed.
Adam Reach picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and picked the former England Youth international out with a slide rule pass, Aarons did the rest with a tidy finish.
The two-goal gap always looked too wide for Bolton to bridge. Joe Williams did have a goal-bound shot blocked by Hector but the fluidity they had shown in the opening 15 minutes had long since vanished.
Parkinson brought on Clayton Donaldson, Will Buckley and Luca Connell to try and add some more energy, but his side failed to approach anything like the levels they had shown against Millwall a few days earlier.
A corner from Connell in the last 10 minutes caused a brief flutter of panic at the back for Wednesday, Mark Beevers heading back at the far post, but Ameobi’s woeful finish rather summed up the performance as a whole.
Keiren Westwood was only forced to make a save in time added on as Donaldson tried his luck from an acute angle.
Results elsewhere may have gone Bolton’s way, meaning they lost no further ground on the sides above the bottom three, but the pressure on Saturday’s game against Wigan Athletic is now considerable.
A takeover may provide the boost they need – and on this evidence they certainly need something. One look at the league table makes you wonder whether this season of uncertainty has just given them too much to do.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]