- Madine strikes 77th minute winner
- Bolton earn first victory in 18 league games but stay bottom
- Rovers suffer back-to-back defeats under Paul Lambert
- Lambert describes display as “most disappointing” of his reign
GARY Madine’s late winner gave Bolton Wanderers a first Championship win since September as the bottom club edged past Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers.
The striker fired home after controlling Dean Moxey’s long throw-in with 13 minutes remaining for the only goal of a tense derby at the Macron Stadium.
Zach Clough struck the post early on for struggling Wanderers – who had won just once in their previous 17 games.
Both sides had penalty appeals turned down in the second half and Rovers went close to a stoppage-time equaliser when Tom Lawrence’s deflected effort rebounded off the woodwork.
But Bolton’s luck held out as Neil Lennon got the reaction he demanded to Boxing Day’s 4-0 defeat at relegation rivals Rotherham, who are now just four points ahead of the Trotters outside the bottom three.
A delighted Lennon thanked the supporters and dedicated the much-needed three points to the club’s ill chairman Phil Garside as the under-pressure Bolton manager got one over his former Celtic team-mate Paul Lambert.
Lambert, however, suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since replacing Gary Bowyer in mid-November.
The former Aston Villa chief will bemoan his side’s defending for the decisive goal and a clear handball by Bolton skipper Darren Pratley in the box which went unpunished but Rovers stay 15th as they failed to score for a third game running.
Bolton made four changes to the side that conceded four in their second-half collapse at the New York Stadium as Madine replaced the injured Emile Heskey, who watched from the stands, while Josh Vela – one of three local lads in the line-up – also came into midfield.
The hosts almost made the ideal start inside seven minutes when Clough diverted Moxey’s cross onto the post before Madine’s follow-up was blocked by Markus Olsson in front of keeper Jason Steele.
It injected confidence into Wanderers which they had been lacking all season and lifted the atmosphere as Rovers were largely on the back foot during a lively opening.
The visitors enjoyed plenty of possession but rarely threatened to trouble the hosts as Danny Guthrie lashed off target before Jordan Rhodes had a shot well blocked by Prince-Desire Gouano when played in on goal.
His strike partner Bangaly-Fode Koita was forced off seconds before the interval with a hamstring injury and replaced by Nathan Delfouneso, who made a positive impression in his first outing under Lambert.
Three yellow cards in the space of three minutes livened up an uninspiring start to the second half – which included a correct booking for Mark Davies after the Bolton midfielder took a dive on the edge of the box.
Rovers upped the ante as ever-present Shane Duffy glanced Craig Conway’s free-kick wide before Pratley’s handball from Adam Henley’s cross went unnoticed by the officials.
At the other end, Moxey screamed unsuccessfully for a spotkick after claiming he was clipped by Conway as he ran into the box despite replays suggesting contact was made.
As Lambert’s team looked more likely to make the breakthrough, Duffy sent another header over the crossbar and left-back Olsson fizzed their first shot on target straight at Ben Amos on 65 minutes.
It looked to be heading to another goalless draw – as it was in a fiery encounter at Ewood Park in August – between the two sides relegated from the Premier League in 2011 but Bolton’s encouraging display was rewarded on 77 minutes.
Madine evaded five Rovers defenders to take Moxey’s throw on his chest and rifled a volley on the turn into the bottom corner.
The statuesque defending would have bemused Lambert, who moments earlier had surprisingly withdrawn star striker Rhodes.
The Scot’s replacement Lawrence almost made an instant impact but scooped an effort over at the near post from Henley’s delivery while captain Grant Hanley could only direct Conway’s free-kick off target.
The nerves around the stadium turned to consternation when Vela’s shot from Liam Feeney’s centre struck Henley’s arm but Premier League referee Jon Moss – whose view seemed to be obstructed – said the defender was too close for it to be deliberate handball.
The visitors piled on the pressure in the closing stages and – in the first of five additional minutes – Lawrence’s shot deflected off Prince on to the post before landing into the grateful gloves of Amos.
It was the closest Rovers came to an equaliser but they couldn’t prevent a sixth successive defeat at the Macron as Bolton clung on for a first clean sheet in eight games and – more importantly – a second league win of the campaign.
With the players set to be paid November’s wages tomorrow, the result could prove to be a turning point in Bolton’s unlikely quest to avoid the drop to League One as they chase down second-bottom Charlton.
Not used: Rachubka (GK), Casado, Wilson, Spearing, Danns, Wellington, Dobbie.
Booked: M Davies (52′), Moxey (55′), Vela (59′), Pratley (90+2′)
Goals: Madine (77′)
Substitutes: Delfouneso (on for Koita 44′), Lawrence (on for Rhodes 76′) and Taylor (on for Henley 88′)
Not used: Eastwood (GK), Spurr, Kilgallon, Williamson.
Booked: Akpan (53′), Duffy (74′), Olsson (90+4′)
Referee: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire) – 7/10