BOLTON booked their place in the FA Cup third round after a hard-fought win over League One rivals Sheffield United.
The two sides are set to battle it out for a return to the Championship this season and although Wanderers went through, United made them work hard for a 3-2 victory at the Macron.
Four-time winners Bolton were in charge after scoring two in two minutes – either side of the break – through Gary Madine and Sammy Ameobi. But the Blades have a proud Cup record, having also won it four times, and weren’t going out without a fight.
Paul Coutts pulled one back on 64 minutes as the Blades went all out for an equaliser. And although Vela struck with six minutes left, Jack O’Connell replied two minutes later to set up a nervy finish.
Ameobi had curled an early effort wide for Wanderers, who are just two points above United in League One’s top three, before Madine’s header was tipped over by Aaron Ramsdale.
And from the resulting corner, Ramsdale made a double save to deny Tom Thorpe and Mark Beevers before David Wheater’s shot was cleared off the line by Reece Brown.
Zach Clough then curled wide while United’s Stefan Scougall missed a great chance, volleying wide after Kieron Freeman’s knock-down found him six yards out.
But Wanderers broke the deadlock on 43 minutes as Andrew Taylor’s long throw was flicked on by Lawrie Wilson for Madine to sidefoot home at the back post.
Just 30 seconds after half-time, Clough laid off for Ameobi to beat Ramsdale with a superb 25-yard strike.
Ben Alnwick then denied Freeman before Coutts’ 20-yard strike was deflected into the bottom corner to give the visitors hope. Caolan Lavery blazed over as they pressed for an equaliser, while Freeman and John Fleck were off target.
Madine had spurned two chances to give Bolton breathing space but Vela made no mistake after latching onto Clough’s neat pass.
Yet still the Blades weren’t done. They immediately brought on Billy Sharp and his low cross was almost bundled in by Leon Clarke. And although ex-Rochdale loanee O’Connell headed home from the resulting corner, taken by Fleck, United couldn’t force a replay.
Bolton boss Phil Parkinson said: “It was a good game between two good sides and we’re pleased to progress. We got ourselves in a great position at 2-0 and at 3-1 the game should have been over. But they threw caution to the wind and when they got the second goal it was important we stood strong. That’s four wins in a row now and it’s not a bad habit to be in.
“I’d like one of the big guns in the next round now, not just for the financial implications but because I’d like to see us tested against a really good side. It’d be good for our up-and-coming players, like Vela and Clough, who are playing so well at the moment, and to see where we are as a team against a team from a higher division.”
Wanderers join Macclesfield, Rochdale and Oldham in tomorrow night’s draw. MACCLESFIELD are in the hat after holding League One Oxford to a 0-0 in Friday night’s televised clash at the Moss Rose.
Steve Davies and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing scored at the beginning and end of the second half to give ROCHDALE a 2-0 win at Carlisle on Saturday while OLDHAM are in the draw as it will be made at 7pm on Monday, just before their away tie against non-league Lincoln City is shown live on BT Sport. The draw will be shown live on BT Sport and BBC Two.