Wanderers suffered injury time heartbreak against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Wednesday evening.
In a game of few clear cut opportunities, Bolton’s best chance came late on in the clash with Craig Davies unable to fire home after breaking free of the Blackburn defence, while Ben Amos also pulled off a number of impressive saves during the
Rovers were to snatch all three points deep into injury time however, with Jordan Rhodes poking the ball home to deny Bolton a deserved point and secure the derby bragging rights.
There were full debuts for both Giles Coke and Paddy McCarthy following their recent loan moves to the club, while Emile Heskey was also in from the off for Wanderers.
The bench saw the inclusion of Craig Davies on his return from injury alongside Andrew Lonergan who hadn’t featured for the Whites since being stretchered off at Nottingham Forest last month.
Wanderers started the clash brightly, with Liam Feeney’s clever ball across goal inside two minutes causing problems amongst the Blackburn backline.
The home side were soon in the ascendancy themselves however, with Craig Conway giving the Whites food for thought while Tom Cairney also made his way into Bolton territory without fruition.
An excellent opportunity was handed to Wanderers with seven minutes gone as Heskey was fouled just outside the area, with Adam Le Fondre forcing a smart save out of Jason Steele who did well to get down to his near post to deny him.
A chance which boosted the volume in the away enclosure of Ewood Park, the pressure from Bolton continued although Rovers did see a shot from distance by Cairney thumped away from danger.
Le Fondre was in the mix yet again for the Trotters with 12 minutes on the clock, catching almost everybody bar Steele off-guard with a thunderous shot from 30 yards, but the keeper was alert to smother the ball and kill the opportunity.
Having enjoyed the majority of goalmouth action early on however, Wanderers were then forced to defend as Rovers pushed forward, Conway causing all manner of problems down the right flank.
Despite their presence in and around the Bolton box however, Neil Lennon’s men were dealing with everything Rovers threw their way with McCarthy in particular standing firm in the heart of defence.
As the first period reached its half way point, the majority of play was being contested in the middle third of the pitch with neither goalkeeper being tested much.
It was end to end as the game reached the half hour mark, although neither Wanderers nor Rovers were managing to create anything meaningful in front of goal with Cairney’s effort from just outside the area failing to trouble Ben Amos.
An early substitution for Blackburn saw Lee Williamson replacing Corry Evans, while Le Fondre was yet again making his presence known with a looping long range effort which cleared the crossbar moments after the change.
With the clock ticking down to the break, Wanderers were dominating in possession and were slowly but surely pushing forward but were still having to fend off a number of Blackburn attacks.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Saidy Janko shook off the challenge of his marker on the right before whipping a dangerous ball across the face of goal, sadly to no avail as Steele emerged to claim it.
Another substitution for Rovers on the stroke of half time was also met with two minutes of added time, while Cairney’s shot from just outside the 18-yard box was narrowly off target and Ben Marshall’s header over the bar as the first period ended
With the second period underway with no changes for either side at the break, Blackburn were to enjoy the first notable chance as Marshall’s free-kick from 20 yards narrowly cleared Amos’ upright with the half just two minutes old.
Settling into the game a little more as time wore on, Wanderers looking menacing on the break with Le Fondre and Feeney linking up well as Bolton poured forward.
The home side were enjoyable the more notable opportunities however, although their endeavours weren’t reaping dividends in front of goal.
Josh Vela, collecting a cross-field through-ball from Feeney on the right, look set to tee up an advancing Bolton head in the 57th minute as he powered to the by-line, but the academy graduate skewed his cross horribly when in on goal.
There was too little to call between the sides with each team causing their own problems for the opposition, with the game opening up more as the half wore on.
Amos was called upon just after the hour mark to deny Chris Brown from range, while the shot-stopper also palmed away a curling Cairney effort shortly after.
The chance appeared to breathe life into the hosts, with the Ewood Park faithful raising the volume on a bitterly cold Wednesday evening in Lancashire.
Dean Moxey came into the mix in place of Janko with 67 minutes gone as Wanderers enjoyed a period of possession, albeit one which produced little of note in front of goal.
Blackburn however responded with a change of their own, with Rudy Gestede coming on in place of Brown with 20 minutes remaining.
Once with the bit between their teeth though, Wanderers were looking more of a threat in and around the Rovers box as Matt Mills saw his header drift just over the crossbar.
A final throw of the dice came with 17 minutes remaining as Craig Davies was thrown into the mix in place of Emile Heskey, with the frontman making his presence known immediately.
Neil Danns almost opened the scoring in some style moments later as he rifled goalwards from distance to force a smart save out of Steele, with the combination of Moxey and Le Fondre unable to turn home the rebound.
Bolton’s pressure was growing with Rovers looking somewhat shaky at the back, while Davies squandered a glorious opportunity with 11 minutes remaining as he broke free unmarked but fired straight at Steele to the disbelief of the Bolton faithful.
Right up the other end however, Rhodes almost put the hosts in front with a header from a matter of yards out, only to be denied by Amos before Moxey caused chaos in the Blackburn box with a lofted ball into the area.
It was turning out to be a grandstand finish at Ewood Park with the game balanced on a knife edge, with neither side ready to settle for a solitary point.
As the clock ran down, both Wanderers and Rovers were throwing men forward in a bid to find an elusive winning goal while four minutes of added time were indicated.
Blackburn were to be the team in the ascendancy as time ticked down, and were rewarded in the dying embers of the game as Rhodes poked home from close range to snatch all three points for the hosts.