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BIG MATCH VERDICT: Wanderers well worthy of point at Hillsborough

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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Wanderers might have rode their luck early on at Sheffield Wednesday – but they ended up fully deserving a steely point against League One’s leaders.

Things did not look good for Ian Evatt’s men when they fell behind early on to Lee Gregory’s close-range effort, the Owls at that point playing some powerful football that left Bolton standing still in their tracks.

But after gradually finding some rhythm in the first half, an equaliser from Victor Adeboyejo gave them a new lease of life, after which they tested their hosts’ unbeaten run in no uncertain terms.

Dion Charles might have had a penalty late on after a shove from Aiden Flint but Wanderers won’t complain too hard after a result which puts them in a much better frame of mind for their next test at Wembley.

Before kick-off there was a minute’s applause for Wednesday legend Don Megson, father of former Bolton boss Gary Megson, and a former scout at Wanderers while his son was in charge.

Wanderers made three changes from the side beaten by Ipswich, with Evatt bringing in Josh Sheehan, Kieran Lee and Declan John for Shola Shoretire, Luke Mbete and Aaron Morley.

He didn’t get much time to appreciate it but the Bolton boss will have been relatively pleased with the early exchanges, or at least the first few minutes, with one half-decent chance falling for Victor Adeboyejo which was deflected over the bar.

The home side then took a firm hold of the game. They went ahead after 11 minutes when Reece James’s deep cross from the left was headed back by Aiden Flint into the path of Gregory, inexplicably given time to take two touches six yards from goal, the second of which flew past James Trafford via a deflection, and into the net.

Wednesday had already fired a couple of warning shots. Flint’s presence was a constant problem and his flick from a long throw had created a presentable chance for Gregory, pushed around the post by Trafford.

Barry Bannan sent a dipping shot just wide and only some scrambling defending from Ricardo Santos denied Josh Windass from close range, Bolton at this stage holding on for dear life.

Wednesday’s delivery from the wide positions was in a different league. Trafford made further saves from Flint and Will Vaulks, and it looked as if it would be somewhat of an achievement for the Whites to go in only a goal behind.

Out of the blue, Conor Bradley combined with Gethin Jones on the right, opening up some space for the defender to cross low for Adeboyejo, who turned a deflected shot past Dawson to stun the massed ranks of The Kop.

The psychology of the game changed in an instant. Wednesday’s passing became looser, Bolton were a yard quicker to the ball and the frustration started to show as Dion Charles clashed with towering defender, Flint, just before the interval.

That glimpse of fallibility seemed to encourage the Bolton fans too, who amped up their volume levels from there on in.

Wednesday came out with some intent in the second half, Windass lashing one early shot straight at Trafford and Dele-Bashiru also flicking a header wide from half time sub Marvin Johnson’s cross.

But, encouraged by Adeboyejo’s 15th strike of the campaign, Bolton were suddenly looking more convincing in attack, too. Charles forced Dawson into a sliding clearance after a poor back-pass form Palmer, further emphasising that the hosts were good, but not unbeatable.

Long throws, and the inevitable march of Flint, was a constant issue. The former Bristol City man got on the end of one deep cross from Vaulks in the 66th minute but could not steer his effort goalward.

Perhaps that aerial threat prompted Evatt’s decision to bring on some extra experience, and heading power, in the form of Cameron Jerome, replacing goal-scorer Adeboyejo.

Wanderers had frequently looked to pit Charles one-on-one with Flint in a foot race, and an excellent ball from Eoin Toal did just that with 17 minutes left. The Northern Ireland international got the wrong side of his marker and looked set to wrap his left foot around the ball when he was apparently nudged to the ground.

Ref Sam Purkiss took a long look but waved away Bolton’s appeals. And a matter of seconds later Bannan got a chance to make his former team-mate Evatt’s mood even worse on the touchline, but could only drill a shot straight at Trafford.

Wanderers still looked to make something happen. A handball by Bannan on the left edge of the box allowed John to whip in a free kick, the clearance falling nicely for Jerome to crash a volley just over Dawson’s crossbar.

Bolton’s bravery on the ball nearly put them in trouble six minutes before the end as a forced pass into sub Shoretire allowed Wednesday to win possession and surge forward, a chance eventually falling for Palmer near the penalty spot but thankfully placed way over the crossbar.

The final minutes were played in constant transition, both teams looking to inflict the killer blow and being given plenty of space in midfield to do so.

As six minutes of added time was flashed up by the fourth official, Bradley managed to wriggle free on the right and cross low for Owls old boy Kachunga, on as a substitute, but he Palmer got across well to block his shot.

Wanderers carried on in search of a winner but will be pleased with a gutsy point, which shows there is plenty of fight left in this promotion race.

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