Bolton Wanderers shared the points with Stoke City in an entertaining goalless contest at the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday afterno
The hosts though can count themselves rather unfortunate not to come away with a maximum after putting in arguably their best performance of the campaign against a team that were relegated from the Premier League last time.
Despite a slow start, Phil Parkinson’s men dominated the contest and found visiting goalkeeper Jack Butland in inspired form.
The performance will put Wanderers in good stead ahead of their visit to Hull City on New Year’s Day.
Phil Parkinson made two changes from the side that beat Rotherham United on Boxing Day at the University of Bolton Stadium with Josh Vela and Jonathan Grounds coming into the start XI to replace the injured duo of Gary O’Neil and Andrew Taylor.
After a quiet opening five minutes, Ben Alnwick was forced into making a sublime save, diving low to his right, to keep out a powerful header from James McClean after the Irishman rose to connect with Benik Afobe’s right-sided cross.
Although the visitors were enjoying most of the possession in the early stages, Wanderers showed plenty of energy and hunger to wrest control of the ball.
Stoke’s attacking threat – the McClean chance aside – was contained superbly by the Wanderers defence and midfield and the hosts were starting to gain more possession.
That said, Sam Clucas should have done better when he received the ball on the edge of the box. His left-footed shank sailed over Alnwick without causing the Wanderers ‘keeper any alarm.
Jack Butland made his first save after a well-worked move from Wanderers culminated in Vela striking goalwards.
Ameobi won possession over on the left and put in a great cross for Christian Doidge who rose to knock down the ball into the path of Vela. Although his shot was on target it lacked the power to sufficiently test the England goalkeeper.
A snapshot from Doidge forced Butland into making a crucial save, tipping the ball over the bar for a corner, after the Welshman was teed up by Vela. It was the best chance of the game and a goal would have been a just reward for Wanderers who ended the half on top.
A bright start after the break saw Wanderers attack immediately from kick off with Williams racing into the box but only to see his right sided cross drift over the cross bar for a goal kick.
Moments later and Doidge found himself just outside the box, but as his effort lacked the direction to trouble Butland.
Wanderers maintained their attacking momentum which they had ended the first half on and were looking to capitalise every time they went forward.
Stoke, by contrast, looked lethargic and were losing possession rather cheaply.
Parkinson made his first change on 64 minutes when he brought on Josh Magennis for Clayton Donaldson.
Wanderers were playing some of their best football of the season and were passing the ball around and looking dangerous in possession.
Gary Rowett had seen enough and made a double substitution to try and get his sideback in the ascendency with Campbell and Etebo coming on.
The change soon brought about a corner for the visitors which was immediately cleared by the hosts.
But Wanderers maintained their attacking impetus and were again unfortunate to find Butland in top form when he kept out a Beevers header from close range after good work from Lowe on the right hand side.
Williams tried his luck from 30-yard with a dipping volley but it fell into the arms of Butland.
The Wanderers midfielder was involved at the other end and managed to clear away the danger after McClean shaped up to volley after the visitors broke away with urgency.
Noone replaced the hard-working Vela at the end of regulation time as Wanderers tried their utmost to get a deserved three points.
Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, Lowe, Grounds, Vela (Noone 90), Beevers, Wheater, Wilson, Donaldson (Magennis 64), Doidge, Ameobi, Williams
Subs Not Used: Matthews, Buckley, Hobbs, Murphy, Olkowski