Bolton Wanderers maintained a 100% winning start upon their return to League One after second-half goals from Gary Madine and Josh Vela secured a 2-1 victory over Fleetwood Town at the Macron Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Fleetwood took the lead just after the half-hour mark, when David Ball found space inside the area to give the men from Highbury Stadium a half-time advantage.
Bolton equalised six minutes into the second period through Madine, following a goal-mouth scramble, before Vela secured maximum points in the closing minutes, when unmarked, he rifled home a powerful shot to make it four wins from their opening four games in the third-tier.
Zach Clough was the only fresh face selected by Phil Parkinson from the squad that beat Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium on Wednesday. The striker replaced the injured Jamie Proctor in Bolton’s final third.
By contrast, Fleetwood head Coach Uwe Rosler made two alterations to his starting line-up for the Cod Army’s first-ever visit to Bolton, with Ashley Hunter and Victor Nirennold replacing Devante Cole and Bobby Grant.
In the opening exchanges in Greater Manchester, Bolton centre-back David Wheater skewed Jay Spearing’s out-swinging corner behind, while up the other end, Hunter was unable to hit the target with only goalkeeper Mark Howard to beat.
Referee Darren England became the centre of attention a few minutes later, infuriating the hosts when he decided against awarding a penalty after Nirennold concluded Mark Davies’ weaving run by bringing him down inside the penalty area, cautioning the felled midfielder instead of pointing to the spot.
Ball narrowly failed to make full contact with a lofted pass from Conor McLaughlin, eventually hitting a tame attempt directly at Howard.
Town forward Hunter then found space in a central position before forcing Howard to palm away his daisy-cutter from 20 yards out.
Wanderers attempted to take the game to their Fylde Coast opponents, but Vela, Dean Moxey and Liam Trotter failed to find the target with their shots on goal.
In a half what yielded few clear cut opportunities, Fleetwood edged ahead after 34 minutes, courtesy of Ball, who turned inside the six-yard box to direct a right-footed shot beyond Howard.
Bolton immediately went in search of a goal to restore parity, and almost found one. Substitute Kaiyne Woolery, who came on for the injured Clough, was played through from Trotter’s pass, however his close-range shot was well-smothered by Town keeper Chris Neal.
Neal was called into action again shortly after as Bolton went close again. This time, he had to deny Mark Beevers’ towering header from Spearing’s floated free-kick.
Ball nearly doubled Fleetwood’s advantage in the closing minutes of the half. He profited from a defensive mix-up within the area to shoot towards the bottom corner, which was matched by Howard.
Bolton began the second-half on the front foot, looking to force the issue, just a minute after the interval, Madine guided a header into the bottom corner having met Lewis Buxton’s teasing cross, but a sprawling Neal managed to divert the ball around the post.
Parkinson’s men were hauled level with 51 minutes on the clock after Madine, who scored his second goal of the campaign, reacted quickest to turn his effort into the net through a sea of players.
Buoyed by their equaliser, Bolton were denied a second goal when Neal’s heroic double save kept out Woolery and Davies in quick succession.
As the inaugural meeting between the two teams reached its conclusion, Spearing’s free-kick went just over Neal’s crossbar, while Fleetwood substitute Grant stung the palms of Howard with a dipping pile-driver in a similar position to a previous strike by team-mate Chris Long.
Vela proved to be the match-winner for the table-topping Trotters as the fixture reached 84 minutes. The midfielder received a knock-down from Conor Wilkinson to steer the ball into the roof of Neal’s goal.
Nirennold wasted a guilt-edged chance to preserve a point for Fleetwood in additional time. Unfortunately for the visitors, the Frenchman looped his shot over the crossbar after Howard spilled a cross, meaning that Bolton held on for another three-points to equal their best league start in 82 years.
Parkinson’s Bolton continue to lead the way with 12 points from four games, while Fleetwood Town drop to 12th place.
Bolton Wanderers: Howard, Buxton, Wheater, Beevers, Moxey, Vela, Spearing, Trotter, Clough (Woolery 33), Davies, Madine (Wilkinson 80).
Fleetwood Town: Neal, McLaughlin, Pond, Eastham, Bell, Ball (Cole 77), Ryan, Jonsson (Amadi-Holloway 60), Hunter (Grant 60), Nirennold, Long.
Attendance: 13, 524