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Thursday 28 Dec 2023
NI Player Watch | Eoin Toal grabs late Bolton winner

Bolton Wanderers defender Eoin Toal headed home an 88th-minute winner as the League One side secured back-to-back wins following their 1-0 success over Lincoln City on Boxing Day. 

It was the 24-year-old’s second goal in three games for the Trotters and his third of the season in what has been a memorable year for the former Derry City player.

“It has been surreal, really, but 2023 has been really good to me,” he said. “It makes it all worth it. Living away from home, I can tell you, it isn’t easy at this time of year. But moments like that goal – I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. 

“I didn’t know what to do when it went in,” added Toal, who made his full international debut back in October against Slovenia. “I said to the boys last week ‘If I score, I’ll do this, I’ll do that’ but then when it happens I never do it. I just went mad. 

“Hopefully now we can take that on now and win again on Friday at Fleetwood. That would be incredible.” 

In the Championship, Stoke City ended their nine-game winless league run as Jordan Thompson fired home his first goal of the season as the Potters defeated Birmingham City 3-1 at St Andrews. 

In League One, Ciaran Brown scored a dramatic winner for Oxford United to give them a 2-1 home victory over Cambridge United while Paddy Lane came off the bench to score his sixth goal of the season for Portsmouth who fell to only their second league defeat of the season, going down 2-1 at Bristol Rovers.

Former Under-21 international Jamie Reid bagged his 18th of the campaign as Stevenage defeated Northampton Town 3-0 at home to stay in sixth spot in League One while current U21 striker JJ McKiernan scored for the second successive game in Morecambe’s 2-2 draw at Bradford City in League Two.

Meanwhile, loanee Jamal Lewis was substituted at half time due to injury as Watford were beaten 4-1 at home by Bristol City; their fourth defeat at Vicarage Road this season. 

Speaking after the loss, Watford boss Valérien Ismaël said: “We need to assess Lewis; it seems like he felt something in his hamstring. We need to see how bad it is. At the minute it doesn’t look good for Friday.” 

After two straight defeats, Sunderland got back to winning ways following a single goal Boxing Day victory against fellow play-off contenders Hull City at the MKM stadium. 

Sunderland defender Trai Hume, who played his third consecutive match in an unaccustomed left-back role, believed the Black Cats deserved to leave with all three points. 

"To come here and beat a good team who were well organised in front of us, to get three points, I think it was deserved. It was good.”

Finally, in the Premier League, Jonny Evans rolled back the years with another masterclass in defending as Manchester United came from two goals down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 at Old Trafford thanks to an 82nd-minute Rasmus Højlund winner.