On the two occasions that the hosts did unlock the Wanderers defence, they were denied by keeper Remi Matthews who pulled off outstanding saves from Jota and very late on from Che Adams.BCFC.COM
Garry Monk’s men struggled to get going all evening and when they were able to put some pressure on the visitors they came up against a resolute and determined Bolton backline.
On the two occasions that the hosts did unlock the Wanderers defence, they were kept at bay by keeper Remi Matthews who pulled off outstanding saves from Jota and also Che Adams very late on.
In between those chances, Bolton stole victory as on-loan Everton man Connolly headed in from a corner with 19 minutes remaining.
Blues, who were unchanged for the third successive game, tested Matthews for the first time on 13 minutes, Lukas Jutkiewicz turning with the ball just inside the area and firing in a fierce drive that flew straight into the midriff of the visiting custodian.
Jutkiewicz was involved again in the next attack which threatened the Wanderers goal as he laid the ball into the path of Mikael Kieftenbeld. The Dutchman had been encouraged to “Shoooot” by the home fans a few minutes earlier and this time he didn’t disappoint, but his effort from a narrow angle flashed wide of the far post.
Lee Camp was finally called into some notable action on 36 minutes when Craig Noone let fly with a shot from 20 yards that the Blues keeper beat away. The same Bolton player collected the rebound and his second effort from a similar range bounced a couple of yards wide of Camp’s right-hand post.
Blues’ response was immediate. Wes Harding’s attempted one-two with Adams was deflected back into the path of the Blues forward who curled a dangerous out-swinging cross towards the back post. His strike-partner Jutkiewicz slid in but, from a difficult angle, he was only able to divert the ball down into the ground and up onto the roof of the net.
That was arguably Blues’ best opening from a drab first-half. Gary Gardner did get a sight of goal in the final seconds when Maxime Colin’s cross was only partially headed away and the ball bounced up towards the loanee, but he was unable to keep his effort down.
Bolton came out at the start of the second-half with far more attacking intent and Noone could have given the visitors the lead on 49 minutes following David Wheater’s header from a right-wing corner. But the ex-Cardiff man was left holding his heads in his hands after missing the target completely with his swivelling shot from just six yards out.
Wanderers’ seven-goal top marksman Josh Magennis sent a wild 20-yard effort flying high up into the Gil Merrick Stand as Phil Parkinson’s side continued their fresh up-tempo approach to proceedings.
With Bolton pushing forward a little more, it gave Blues chance to launch a breakaway attack that almost saw them go in front on 62 minutes. Adams played the ball into the path of Jota on the right side of the area and the Spaniard’s vicious drive was tipped brilliantly onto the bar by Matthews.
It was to be Jota’s last involvement of the evening as he was replaced soon after by Kerim Mrabti as Monk shuffled his pack. But it was a Bolton substitute that was to play a major part in the game’s decisive moment as Parkinson’s men stunned St. Andrew’s by taking the lead.
Luke Murphy, who’d come on at half-time, delivered a dangerous free-kick into the Blues area and Connolly rose highest to direct his downward header past Camp and into the net, to the delight of the small band of travelling fans behind that goal.
Colin’s volleyed attempt was deflected behind for a corner as Blues searched for an equaliser. In between that effort, Isaac Vassell and David Davis were both introduced, the latter receiving a loud ovation as he made his comeback from a long-term injury lay-off.
Bolton continued to stand firm but three minutes into stoppage-time came the golden chance to rescue a point, and the opportunity fell to the player that Blues would have wanted it to. A swift passing move finally opened up the visitors’ defence and Adams was through one-on-one with Matthews, but Blues’ top scorer was denied his 20th goal of the season as the Bolton keeper stood up well and turned the effort aside.
It was rare off-night for Blues but Monk’s men will get a chance to bounce back in front of the home fans again when Blackburn visit St. Andrew’s a week on Saturday.
Blues (4-4-2): Camp; Harding, Morrison, Dean, Colin; Jota (Mrabti 63), Kieftenbeld (Vassell 76), G Gardner (Davis 80), Maghoma; Jutkiewicz, Adams.
Subs not used: Pedersen, C Gardner, Mahoney, Trueman.
Booking: Harding (60)
Bolton (5-3-2): Matthews; Olkowski, Wheater, Wilson (Vela 65), Beevers, Noone; O’Neil (Murphy h/t), Lowe, Connolly; Magennis, Donaldson.
Subs not used: Little, Ameobi, Buckley, Hall, Alnwick.
Goal: Connolly (71)
Bookings: Connolly (69), Noone (90+6)
Attendance: 21,682 (398 away)