Bolton 1-0 Aston Villa: Adam Le Fondre damages Villa's automatic promotion hopes
By James Kilpatrick
Last Updated: 19/03/18 11:22am
Adam Le Fondre's first-half strike dented Aston Villa's automatic promotion chances as Bolton won 1-0 at the Macron Stadium.
Le Fondre poked home Darren Pratley's flicked pass from a corner (19) to hand the hosts a surprise victory over the Sky Bet Championship's fourth-placed side.
Lewis Grabban missed a golden chance to get Villa back into the game in the 33rd minute, while full-back James Bree was superbly denied by goalkeeper Ben Alnwick in injury time as Bolton condemned the visitors to their second league defeat this week.
Villa are seven points behind second-placed Cardiff, who host Derby - live on Sky Sports Football - on Sunday. Meanwhile, Bolton's second consecutive win means they go six points clear of the relegation zone in 19th.
Bolton: Alnwick (8), Flanagan (7), Burke (6), Beevers (6), Taylor (6), Henry (6), Osede (5), Ameobi (7), Pratley (7), Buckley (6), Le Fondre (7)
Subs: Vela (6), Robinson (6)
Aston Villa: Johnstone (6), Elmohamady (6), Chester (6), Terry (6), Bree (6), Snodgrass (6), Hourihane (4), Bjarnason (5), Grealish (6), Adomah (6), Grabban (5)
Subs: Hepburn-Murphy (6), Hogan (6), Davis (N/A)
Man of the match: Jak Alnwick
The visitors looked more likely to score after the opening 19 minutes as Robert Snodgrass threatened with a header which he nodded wide, but it was Bolton who took a surprise lead.
Sammy Ameobi's low corner was flicked on by Pratley at the near post into the path of the unmarked Le Fondre, who poked home from point-blank range. Bolton nearly made it two immediately after the restart, but Jon Flanagan's low drive was blocked on the line with goalkeeper Sam Johnstone beaten.
Villa responded valiantly as Albert Adomah headed Grabban's deep cross narrowly wide before the latter missed a glorious chance as he misdirected Jack Grealish's low cross from around three yards out.
Bolton manager Phil Parkinson kept the same team that drew 1-1 with Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday.
For Villa, James Bree and Birkir Bjarnason came in for Mile Jedinak and Neil Taylor.
As the snow swept across the Macron Stadium once again, Le Fondre came close to scoring his second goal in the 64th minute as he outmuscled James Chester before he dragged his first-time shot wide.
His miss seemingly sparked Villa into life as Scott Hogan came off the bench and nearly scored 13 minutes later. Hogan met Snodgrass' cross, but his shot was heroically blocked by Flanagan before the ball bounced into Alnwick's grateful arms.
In the second minute of injury time, Alnwick made his finest save of the match. Grealish's dangerous cross was headed goal-bound by Bree, but the 31-year-old was there to palm the ball away which ensured Bolton grabbed all three points.
Man of the Match - Ben Alnwick
The Bolton goalkeeper did not have the busiest of evenings, but he was a calming presence in the Bolton defence and showed himself to be very reliable when he was called on.
He produced the defining moment of the match in injury time when he denied Bree with a fantastic stop.
Phil Parkinson: "It's a huge win for us going into the international break. We're still got a six-point gap and obviously we are pleased. Villa are a very good side, but it was an excellent performance from us tonight and I thought we deserved it.
"Our keeper had to make some very good saves towards the end, but the application and the way we went about our job tonight was excellent."
Steve Bruce: "It's a game to do the basics and it's fair to say they did the basics better than we did. We've had a difficult few days in terms of two defeats after a wonderful result against Wolves but that's what the Championship is.
"At the end of the day we've given a sloppy goal away, we've huffed and puffed, had a few opportunities and had the better chances and couldn't quite take one. I'm disappointed with our first half showing as we didn't do enough and unfortunately they've paid the price."
Aston Villa travel to Hull on March 31, while Bolton visit Leeds the night before (March 30).
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