Sheffield United 0-1 Bolton: Gary Madine hits winner
By Press Association
Last Updated: 30/12/17 7:50pm
Bolton clinched their first away victory since August by beating Sheffield United 1-0 at Bramall Lane.
Gary Madine's first-half goal was enough to destroy the Blades' hopes of breaking another record as three points would have taken them to their highest points tally ever in a calendar year.
United began to probe early on as Mark Duffy worked his way around Reece Burke in the Bolton defence. His cross found Billy Sharp in the area, but the chance came to nothing as he headed wide.
Former Sheffield Wednesday player Madine returned to haunt United fans after he broke the deadlock 21 minutes in. A low cross was drilled through the United defence and onto the toes of the Bolton striker, who tucked away the close-range effort.
Blades manager Chris Wilder decided after 31 minutes it was time to switch things up, introducing George Baldock for Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Leon Clarke squandered a chance to level the scores. Duffy's through ball into Clarke was perfectly weighted yet Clarke could not divert the ball past Alnwick, who rushed out to meet him.
Clarke came into the second half looking to turn things round sooner rather than later. The striker created numerous chances but struggled to find the back of the net.
A great display of trickery from Madine on the left flank, touching the ball through the legs of a defender and surging into the box, ended when his shot went straight to the feet of the keeper.
United's best chance of the half glanced wide of the post off Jack O'Connell's head after Fleck's free-kick was whipped in. United's second substitution of the day saw captain Sharp retire to the bench as Will Buckley, who missed the starting line-up due to concerns over his fitness, was introduced.
The 28,000 home supporters erupted in the 66th minute only to be silenced by the palms of Alnwick, who leaped to deny Baldock's attempt from inside the area.
Clarke's missed effort in stoppage time was United's best hope of snatching a point. He was positioned inside the six-yard box when the ball came in but somehow his effort went over the bar.
Chris Wilder: "It was very frustrating. We created chances, but we were poor in finishing it off and we made poor decisions in the final third. It was a massive missed opportunity and a smash-and-grab victory from our opponents. There was nothing tactical about their goal. If there was then we would have conceded several times.
"We were the dominant team, but that doesn't mean we are the better team. We need to be more ruthless in both boxes to sustain our league position. We had a sensible talk because we keep being a mug side. We knew how they played but it didn't work for us today."
Phil Parkinson: "The atmosphere here is great. Mentality is key when you play here, and we implemented it very well. Sheffield United are a very front-footed team, they are cavalier in the way they approach the game, but the way we were disciplined and the way we exploited the space they left in behind was enough to win.
"We have a few players who haven't played much football recently. We knew we would fatigue, but the subs came on and gave us that extra boost."