Latics were beaten after a second half collapse in a bizarre Lancashire derby at the Macron Stadium in which they spurned half a dozen great opportunities to score in the first half, with only a late Callum McManaman scorcher to show for their efforts.
Proof that football can be cruel, Latics’ first half performance lacked only one thing, the finishing touches that would have turned dominance into a winning situation. But after the break, Bolton, who had threatened seriously only once previously, showed the clinical touch in front of goal that had eluded Latics, scoring three quick goals which killed off the contest.
Uwe Rosler brought back Emyr Huws and Marc Antoine Fortune into the starting eleven after they were rested for the long trip to Brighton, while Leon Barnett returned after suspension and McManaman was also back. Out went James Tavernier, Don Cowie, Martyn Waghorn and James McClean.
The game started with a moment of silence to commemorate Remembrance Day – always a poignant moment at any football ground.
Latics should have gone in at the break at least one goal to the good after dominating the vast majority of the half, pressing high up and carving open the Bolton defence time and time again.
They had three glorious opportunities inside the first ten minutes. First, a brilliant McManaman run down the left allowed him space to cross to the far post and Shaun Maloney, arriving late, smashed the volley just wide. Two minutes later and McManaman carved open the Bolton defence again, this time cutting in from the left, his 25 yard drive cannoning off the top of Andy Lonergan’s crossbar. Roger Espinoza then found a way behind the back four in the box after great work by Fortune and Maloney, but calls for a penalty were waved away by the referee.
McManaman found space in the box after good work from James Perch but his shot was smothered up by Lonergan. Maloney launched a dangerous free-kick from the near the halfway line on the left which Bolton failed to clear, then Fortune got behind once more but this time Bolton defenders cleared.
Bolton finally managed to push Latics a little further back up the field and had their first real attempt after 20 minutes, Max Clayton’s ghosting in to receive Lee Chung-Yong’s pass inside the box but Scott Carson blocked his angled drive. The home side started to enjoyed a little more of the game but just as if it looked like the half would peter out, Latics finished off the half as they started, with three great opportunities in quick succession.
First Espinoza was sent clear by Fortune but failed to get the shot away. McManaman picked up the loose ball and smashed a 20 yard drive against the woodwork for the second time before Espinoza pulled another shot wide.
Surely the second half would yield better rewards? The opposite proved to be true and Latics somehow found themselves three goals down within 15 minutes of the restart.
Bolton struck first as Clayton found a way behind Barnett and he slotted home through Carson’s legs. Suddenly it was Bolton with their tails up and Latics had no answer as a cross from the right was not dealt with and Craig Davies, unmarked at the far post, rose highest to head into the ground and past Carson. Clayton then should have scored a third for Bolton, latching onto a Barnett backpass but screwing his drive just wide.
Rosler made an instant double substitution with James McClean and Chris McCann replacing Maloney and Huws but Bolton were awarded a penalty shortly afterwards when Barnett was judged to have brought down Matt Mills in the box. Lee Chung-Yong converted straight down the centre of Carson’s net.
William Kvist was the final change, coming on for Forshaw with 20 minutes as Latics looked to salvage some pride at least.
Latics finally managed to get on the scoresheet on 79 minutes when McClean bullied his way past his marker to send over a brilliant cross, clinically despatched by McManaman on the penalty spot into the back of the net. Latics kept probing for a second as the final minutes ebbed away on a forgettable night at The Macron and the superb following of over 2,500 on the night went home disappointed.