Bolton Wanderers put on an admirable display as they battled their way to a draw in their Barclays U21 Premier League Group 1 clash away to Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Friday night.
Bolton nearly found the breakthrough as early as the 8th minute after an opportunity fell to striker Tom Eaves.
The towering frontman rose to meet Adam Blakeman’s inviting corner-kick and was unfortunate to direct his header just wide.
A tough period for both sides in attack ensued, as both set of defenders remained resolute throughout the majority of the opening 45 minutes.
The Whites were unlucky not take the lead on the half-hour mark when Dylan Wolstenholme didn’t quite make the desired contact on a volley from 12 yards out. An accurate cross from Jack Sampson reached the winger in behind the defence, Wolstenholme side-footed the ball towards goal but the lack of momentum on the shot meant that goalkeeper Grzegorz Sandomierski could palm the ball away to safety.
The only time that Rovers were a real threat in the first half came in the latter stages.
Osayamen Osawe played a ball across the box to the winger Fabio Nunes, before the flamboyant midfielder quickly hit a half-volley that flew just wide of the post in the 36th minute.
The home side gave Bolton cause for concern just four minutes later when Osawe and Nunes combined again. Quick passing between the pair allowed Osawe time and space in the area to bend a shot towards the far corner that Whites goalkeeper Jay Lynch impressively stopped to keep the score level.
Wanderers nearly broke the deadlock a matter of seconds before the half-time whistle was blown.
Blakeman demonstrated his set-piece prowess once again when he whipped in a dangerous free-kick towards Jack Sampson. The youngster glanced his header narrowly wide before referee Steven Copeland called time on a first half where the Whites deserved to be in the lead.
The second half paled in comparison to the first in terms of opportunities to find the net, despite the home side nearly stunning Bolton not long after the restart.
A curling cross from the right flank by Josh Morris was flicked towards the corner of the net by the head of Osawe. The inspirational Lynch stretched to block the attempt but the danger still lurked. Osawe followed up the header by trying to smash a rebound in from close range but the Bolton defence was composed as they swept the ball away.
Wanderers were agonizingly close to opening the scoring in the 53rd minute when Niall Maher nearly conjured up a moment of technical brilliance.
A cross from Wolstenholme was headed away only as far as Maher, who stood 25 yards from goal. The midfielder showed excellent control to chest the ball before powering a vicious volley that soared just over the crossbar.
The only other occasion where either goalkeeper was called into action for the remainder of the half came in the 82nd minute when Rovers nearly found the net in what would have been very unfortunate circumstances for Bolton.
Blackburn left-back Adam Henley raced down the left wing before sending in a hopeful cross that was deflected towards the far corner. Just as the net looked like it was about to bulge, Lynch heroically dived across and managed to get a hand to the ball to prevent Blackburn taking all three points.
Neither side experienced much joy in the final thirds of the pitch for the remainder of the game before time was called on an encouraging performance from Wanderers.
Blackburn Rovers: Sandomierski, Henley, Hanley (Daly 63), Fernandez, O'Connell, Henrique, Fabio Nunes, Edinho, Osawe (Maclaren, 75), O'Sullivan (Lenihan 70), Morris (Unused substitutes: Urwin, Wylie)
Wanderers: Lynch, Hampson, Kellet, McQuade, Threlkeld, Blakeman, Sampson, Maher, Eaves (Odelusi 45), McKee (Dennis 45), Wolstenholme (Woodland 70) (Unused substitutes: Fielding, Kelly)