Report: Bolton exit FA Cup at fourth round stage after 2–1 defeat to Leeds

Toumani Diagouraga celebrates Leeds’ opening goal in their 2–1 victory over Bolton. Picture source: Jonathan Gawthorpe/Yorkshire Evening Post

After producing arguably their best performance of season to beat MK Dons 3–1, Bolton Wanderers failed to find consistency as they served up a poor display and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Leeds United.

The cup certainly isn’t Wanderers’ priority right now, but this was an opportunity to build on two wins on the bounce and breed further confidence within the squad.

As the home side in a knock-out competition, Bolton needed to approach the game better than they did; there was no urgency about them, they sat off Leeds and it was far too easy for their visitors.

United were well-worth their 2–0 half-time lead and, despite having to ride a bit of a storm in the final quarter which saw Bolton pull a goal back, they deserve to have their name in the hat for the fifth round.

Leeds opened the scoring within the first ten minutes and it was a goal that should have been stopped.

Souleymane Doukara took a shot from the edge of the box and, instead of what should have been a routine save for Bolton keeper Ben Amos, the former Manchester United man fumbled the ball and it rolled into the net.

The hosts should have been level soon after; Sol Bamba headed Liam Feeney’s cross into the path of Gary Madine, who fired over the bar from a couple of yards out.

It was then Leeds’ chance to go close as, after catching Wanderers out on the break, Mirco Antenucci forced a smart save out of Amos.

United did add a second shortly before the break, though, when Antenucci burst down the right and pulled back a pass for Toumani Diagouraga to slot home.

Madine had another chance from a couple of yards out after the restart — this time, a Leeds man blocked his effort for a corner.

Then, Leeds should have made it three when the ball was laid on to Scott Whotton ten yards out after a counter-attack, but he fired over the bar.

Amos was forced into action again, saving a freekick from 30 yards, before Bolton pulled a goal back and gave themselves a lifeline.

From a Feeney corner, Liam Trotter flicked a header on, it fell to Wanderers captain Darren Pratley and he smashed the ball into the roof of the net.

Bolton should have been level with a couple of minutes remaining; after Pratley had forced Marco Silvestri to parry his shot, Gary Madine hit the post from the edge of the six-yard box with the rebound.

That was Wanderers’ last chance of note and Leeds held on for the win.

Men of the match

Bolton: Rob Holding — defensively, both goals that Wanderers conceded were poor, but Holding wasn’t at fault for either. This was another solid display by the youngster, who looks right at home in the first-team. He could be a key player for Bolton in the remaining months of the season. Liam Trotter was a close second.

Leeds: Mirco Antenucci — all of Leeds’ frontmen and attacking players did a decent job, but Antenucci was a handful. He had a couple of chances, created the second goal and looked sharp throughout.

Key moment

Bolton didn’t deserve to earn a replay, but they should have done. Madine should have done better with his late effort against the woodwork.

What next?

Does Bolton’s FA Cup exit matter? Not necessarily. Further ties could have been a bonus, financially, but the league is of far more importance. What does matter, though, is the way that they approached the game and the fact that they took so long to look as though they were trying and get themselves back in the game. After the MK Dons win, it looked as though they may have turned a corner, but the same has been said on a couple of occasions this season. There is no doubt that consistency is an issue and that needs to change. It’s vital that Wanderers pick something up from their game at Wolves on Tuesday night. A win could leave them just two points clear of safety.

Leeds aren’t in any danger of relegation and the play-offs now look out of their reach. Steve Evans has done a steady job since taking over as manager and he will be hoping to take them as far as he can this season. A decent FA Cup run will surely be on his list, too.

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