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Monday 16 Jan 2023
Dion Charles hits 12th goal of the season for Bolton Wanderers | NI Player Watch

Shane Ferguson popped up with his first goal of the season after spectacularly scoring direct from a corner in Rotherham United’s impressive 4-0 home victory over promotion-chasing Blackburn Rovers at the weekend.

The 31-year-old had gone 42 games without a goal for the Millers before his perfect execution of a 76th minute corner kick gave the home side a comfortable 3-0 advantage.

In the closing moments striker Conor Washington grabbed a fourth for the Yorkshire outfit when he rifled home his second in two games and his sixth in total for the campaign.  

In League One, Dion Charles gave Bolton Wanderers an early lead at home to Portsmouth with his 12th goal of the season and former Derry City defender Eoin Toal calmly finished off a pass from Conor Bradley to make the final score 3-0 to the Trotters. 

Former under-21 international Toal has made the centre-back berth his own after breaking into the team at the end of November and Bolton boss Ian Evatt was keen to sing the 23-year-old’s praises after the game.

“Seeing a wide centre-back combine on the edge of the box is pretty much what we’re about and what defines us,” Evatt told the club website. “I was delighted for Toaly. He showed really good composure in the box.” 

Elsewhere in the division, Ciaron Brown’s last minute strike gave Oxford United all three points as they ran out 2-1 winners at Fleetwood Town, who had teenager and former Warrenpoint Town goalkeeper Stephen McMullan on their bench.

Back in the Championship, Sunderland had three Northern Ireland players starting their home game with Swansea City on Saturday, Daniel Ballard, Corry Evans and Trai Hume.

Unfortunately, the Black Cats lost 3-1 at the Stadium of Light after going down to 10 men early in the first half, though Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray still spoke highly of how 20-year-old Hume has seized the opportunity to get more first-team minutes under his belt. 

“Trai was very often in my office when he wasn't playing, wanting a chance,” said Mowbray. “I just told him that he would have to be patient and wait for an opportunity.

“But injuries have given him an opportunity and he has grabbed it with both hands. He’s very talented and very strong and his passing is good - he looks like a really, really, good full-back.”

In the Premier League in England, Leicester City skipper Jonny Evans was still sidelinded due to a muscle injury and Jamal Lewis was an unused substitute as Newcastle United remained in third position in the table with a 1-0 home success over Fulham.

In the Women’s Super League, Rachel Furness was used as a substitute as Liverpool lost 6-0 at Manchester United but Jackie Burns and Lauren Wade both started Reading’s narrow 3-2 loss at Leicester City.

There were debuts over the weekend for Carlisle United’s Alfie McCalmont, who has joined the League Two side on loan from Leeds United until the end of the season, and also for striker Ally Roy who started for Morton following his loan move from Glentoran last week.

Meanwhile, veteran forward Kyle Lafferty made his long-awaited return from suspension after being named in the Kilmarnock team which fell to a 2-0 Scottish League Cup semi-final defeat at Hampden Park to Celtic. 

Winger Matty Kennedy provided an assist for Aberdeen’s goal against Rangers in the other semi-final, however, Mick Beale’s charges, for whom Charlie McCann came on as a late substitute, fought back to win the game 2-1 in extra time. 

Finally, in the youth leagues in England and Scotland, Callum Marshall and Patrick Kelly were among the goalscorers for West Ham United’s U18 side while Dale Taylor and Charlie Lindsay were both on target for Nottingham Forest (U21) and Rangers (B) respectively.