Sheffield Wednesday: Owls under-23s crash to shock defeat to bottom side Bolton
There was no sign of injured first team captain Tom Lees as Sheffield Wednesday’s under-23s became the first team this season to lose out to a spirited Bolton Wanderers.
Garry Monk had suggested Lees could be involved in reserve team action as his recovery from a hamstring injury goes on. And his presence at the heart of the young Owls’ defence would have made a difference as they lost 4-2 to the division’s bottom side.
Hoping to record their first win of the season, the Trotters arrived having made eleven changes to the side that was beaten 4-1 by Crewe last week.
This, you would have thought, was an opportunity for the Owls to assert some dominance but after a flurry of unconverted early chances Wednesday found themselves 2-0 down inside 20 minutes.
Offered an ocean of space outside the Owls box, Bolton midfielder George Thomason picked his spot past Josh Render’s diving left hand to open the scoring on 19 minutes, and that lead was doubled two minutes later by a fine De Malio Sterling run and finish down the left-hand side.
It was Sterling who’s luminous green Wanderers shirt shone brightest throughout the first half as a punch drunk Wednesday tried in vain to piece their early dominance back together.
With Alex Hunt acting as a frustrated quarter back in the middle of the park, Ben Hughes offered tenacity and glimmers of quality on the Wednesday right but it was all too infrequent.
Bolton seemed to grow an inch or two in stature in midfield as the half went on but after two late Owls chances – the first of which saw Fraser Preston squander a free header from Joe West’s cross on 42 minutes – it was the visitors who needed the whistle most.
After a nip and tuck start to the second period the Trotters sat deeper and deeper, the Wednesday wide men able to put some passages of play together.
And they were back in the game just before the hour when Conor Grant’s probing run set Liam Shaw free in the Bolton box to earn a penalty that was expertly slotted home by Owls captain Hunt.
It was Hunt that came close to levelling for the hosts 10 minutes later, slamming the crossbar with a free-kick taken just outside the Bolton penalty area, but both in truth sides struggled for fluency in a stop-start second half during which Bolton dropped deep.
This allowed Wednesday to flood forward and at the centre of that was Conor Grant. His smart finish from just outside the area prompted a purr of appreciation from the Bracken Moor crowd as the Owls drew level.
A key component in their comeback had been in nullifying the threat of play-making Bolton skipper Eddie Brown. Operating in the number ten role it was Brown that took the final few minutes by the bootlaces, dropping into midfield to dictate play.
His good work set off Bolton for their most dangerous attack of an otherwise subdued second half. But Wednesday blinked and Bolton were back ahead, substitute Lamine Toure heading home a cross from short range.
With 90 minutes looming, Wednesday boss Neil Thompson rang the changes and pushed his side further forward.
Wednesday defender Osaze Orughide was sent off late on for accumulating two yellows and with space to play with Brown found himself one-on-one with Josh Render to produce a classy chipped finish and his side their first points of the season.
The u23s next match comes next week against south Yorkshire rivals Barnsley.