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Match Report


Posted Sun 29 Aug 10 at 18:12 PM

Wanderers 2 Birmingham City 2

Ten man Wanderers fought back from 2-0 down to earn a share of the spoils against Birmingham on a hugely eventful afternoon at the Reebok.

Owen Coyle's men looked dead and buried with an hour of the game played after Roger Johnson and Craig Gardner struck goals for the Blues either side of Jussi Jaaskelainen's sending-off for violent conduct.

But Bolton showed immense character to get back on level terms through a Kevin Davies penalty and an exquisite free-kick from Robbie Blake late in the second half.

One point might only have been the outcome but it felt like much more as Wanderers maintained their unbeaten run heading into the international break.

Kevin Davies

Wanderers, who were unchanged from the victory at West Ham, found themselves behind inside the first five minutes as Roger Johnson scored in the first attack of the match.

The central defender was in the right place at the right time to lash the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen from just six yards out after Cameron Jerome had flicked on Lee Bowyer's cross from the left.

Despite conceding the early goal, Wanderers heads didn't drop and they slowly began to play themselves into the game after the setback.

Johan Elmander almost struck an instant response as he seized on some hesitant Birmingham defending, however his volley from a tight angle flashed wide of Ben Foster's near post.

And Martin Petrov came within a Ben Foster save of making Stephen Carr pay when the former Tottenham Hotspur man scuffed his attempted clearance inside his own penalty area.

Petrov forced Foster into another full stretched save with a deflected shot from distance, while Johan Elmander's 30 yard free-kick was charged down by a sizeable visitors' wall.

Aside from the opening exchanges, the first-half belonged to Bolton as they pressed Birmingham deep into their own half, restricting the Midlands outfit to the odd counter attack.

But on 36 minutes, Wanderers suffered a body blow when they were reduced to ten men.

Goalscorer Johnson seemed to leave a foot in on Jussi Jaaskelainen and the long-serving goalkeeper stopper was deemed to have raised an hand in retaliation by referee Kevin Friend.

The Finn was promptly dismissed and chaos ensued between the two sets of the players, with Johnson booked for his part in the unsavoury incident.

The red card prompted a tactical reshuffle by manager Owen Coyle as Martin Petrov was sacrificed for Adam Bogdan, who was making his Premier League debut just five days after making his first competitive appearance for the club in the Carling Cup win at Southampton.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Wanderers refused to sit back and only a last ditch block from Sebastian Larsson prevented Stuart Holden from restoring parity in the final few minutes of the first half.

But just like the first-half, Birmingham came out and doubled their lead through Craig Gardner six minutes after the interval.

There was a big question of offside against Jerome when McFadden played a chipped cross in from the left, but the linesman kept his flag down and the former Cardiff City man headed into the path of Gardner, who poked the ball into the net from virtually under the crossbar.

The Blues' second goal clearly gave them a stranglehold on the contest but credit to Wanderers because they used the disappointment as a springboard to produce the spirited comeback.

Bolton continued to plug away, most notably when Foster thwarted an Elmander volley, and when they were handed a handed a route back into the game from the penalty spot on 73 minutes they duly took that chance.

Having being heavily involved in the two previous key incidents in the game, Roger Johnson was once again at the heart of the action as he was judged to have been climbing all over Kevin Davies inside the penalty box.

Kevin Friend was well positioned and had no doubts in awarding a spot-kick for the Whites, with the skipper himself stepping up to send Foster the wrong way with an assured finish from 12 yards.

The goal not only lifted the Wanderers players but the vast majority of supporters inside the Reebok.

And on 80 minutes the scores were level when Robbie Blake, on in place of Johan Elmander, announced himself to the home faithful with a world-class free-kick from 30 yards out.

Gary Cahill had taken a tumble under a challenge from Barry Ferguson and the former Burnley man, another making his home debut for the Whites, left Foster rooted to the stop with a set-piece that arrowed right into the top corner of the net.

The Reebok erupted as Blake wheeled away in celebration at what had been nothing sort of a magnificent comeback.

And there was still time for Kevin Davies to almost win the game with a thunderous shot that flew just yards wide of the target.

Equally, Jerome found himself in a promising position to grab a last-gasp winner for his side in injury time, but Bogdan raced from his goal to make a superb one-on-one save to secure a valuable and deserved point for Bolton.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Knight, Cahill, Robinson, Chung-Yong, Holden (Mark Davies 77), Muamba, Petrov (Bogdan 37), Elmander (Blake 67), Kevin Davies (Subs: Taylor, Ricketts, Alonso, Andy O'Brien)

Birmingham: Foster, Carr, Bowyer, Johnson, Ridgewell, Larsson (Fahey 76), Gardner, Jerome, Dann, McFadden (Derbyshire 67), Ferguson (Subs: Taylor, Murphy, O'Connor, Zigic, Valles)

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