West Bromwich Albion kept up the pressure at the top of the Championship as they eased past struggling Bolton Wanderers amid protests by home fans at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Up to 4,000 Bolton supporters congregated outside the ground before kick-off to voice concern at owner Ken Anderson’s handling of the club, before more unrest followed inside the stadium.
It was a relatively comfortable night for the Baggies as Jay Rodriguez put them ahead early on when he nodded home Craig Dawson’s flicked header on the goal-line.
Sam Field wrapped up three points as he latched onto a ball cleverly dummied by Dwight Gayle to finish with ease past Bolton keeper Ben Alnwick.
Victory moves Darren Moore’s side up to third, four points behind leaders Leeds.
Gary O’Neil, who returned to Bolton last week after their registration embargo was lifted, had a great chance to put the hosts ahead early on as he glanced a close-range header across the face of goal, but they created few clear-cut opportunities.
Wanderers remain 23rd in the table, three points from safety, and are still the lowest scorers in the English Football League with just 18 goals in 28 matches.
The defeat also stretches a torrid run to just one victory in 18 Championship games.
Protests inside and outside ground
Anderson, who is out of the country, has said he is doing his utmost to sell the club and asked fans to be patient.
But thousands of supporters turned out to protest at their current financial state.
In September, former owner Eddie Davies gave Bolton a £5m loan four days before he died to help the club avoid going into administration.
Players’ wages for November were also paid late and they were placed under a player registration embargo.
Protesting fans also showed support for club legend John McGinlay following his “removal of media privileges” after he voiced criticism in a BBC Radio Manchester fans’ forum last week.
McGinlay joined the protest despite not being allowed to fulfil his media commitments inside the ground.
The protests continued inside the stadium, with supporters throwing tennis balls onto the pitch to delay kick-off while ‘Anderson Out’ banners were scattered throughout the crowd.
There was also unrest among a group of fans and stewards which quickly calmed down following intervention from police.
Bolton’s next home game is a crucial fixture against Reading on Tuesday. The Royals are one point above Phil Parkinson’s side.