Chris Eagles' fourth goal of the season not enough for Wanderers at St Andrew's
Bolton encountered a resolute Birmingham defence at St Andrew’s as they were unable to convert a late onslaught into points.
After Leroy Lita had put the home side in front from close-range in the 15th minute, Bolton came fighting back and deservedly drew level just moments prior to half-time with Chris Eagles’ 30-yard free-kick – his fourth goal of the season.
Marlon King picked himself up off the turf to restore the Birmingham City advantage from the penalty spot moments after the restart, prompting wave after wave of attack from Wanderers.
But there was to be no second equaliser, with goalkeeper Jack Butland producing a series of second-half saves, most notably from a Marcos Alonso volley.
Ahead of kick-off, boss Owen Coyle made one change to his starting line-up. Keith Andrews dropped down to the bench while Chung-Yong Lee, a goalscorer at St Andrew’s on two of his three visits, returned to the right-wing.
Wanderers made an enterprising start to the proceedings, knocking the ball around confidently inside the opening quarter of an hour.
David Ngog was looking particularly lively, having an early goal disallowed for offside on ten minutes before blazing wide from the edge of the penalty area having been released by strike partner Kevin Davies.
Birmingham’s attack was led by Leroy Lita, whose presence proved to be a constant danger for Bolton’s defensive line.
The warning signs were there when the on-loan Swansea man headed narrowly wide from a right-winged cross, and the 27-year-old made no mistake with his second effort on 16 minutes.
After venturing forward from full-back, Paul Caddis found space in the right channel before delivering a ball through the corridor of uncertainty inside the six-yard box. Lita was perfectly placed, burying past Adam Bogdan from only a couple of yards out.
A double blow for Wanderers was that before the game could be restarted from the centre circle, Jay Spearing had to be replaced through injury. Andrews was the replacement in a like-for-like change.
Despite falling behind, the Whites weren’t deterred in their quest to put the ball into the back of Butland’s net.
Chung-Yong was inches away from getting a final touch on Kevin Davies’ deep cross towards the far post and Ngog, unmarked, planted a free header right at Butland with the goal at his mercy.
At the opposite end of the pitch, Bogdan was forced into a smart stop when he raced from his line to block Chris Burke, however Wanderers deservedly levelled the scores just two minutes before the interval.
After Ngog had been decked illegally under a challenge from Steven Caldwell 30 yards from goal, Chris Eagles stepped up to bend a superb free-kick over a five-man Birmingham wall and into the back of the net past the outstretched dive of Butland.
With the scores 1-1 at the break, Bolton were the team in the ascendency, but just two minutes after the restart Birmingham nudged ahead for the second time, on this occasion from the penalty spot.
When King was adjudged to have been fouled by Alonso, the former Watford man picked himself up off the turf to send Bogdan the wrong way from 12 yards out.
Birmingham then sensed a third - Bogdan palmed away a thunderbolt from Caddis, while Lita shanked a close-range effort into the side-netting after collecting a weak back-header from Knight.
On the hour mark, Coyle made his second and third change of the game as Ngog and Chung-Yong were replaced by Benik Afobe and Martin Petrov.
The Bulgarian’s first real involvement was to fire a first-time volley wide of the target. Eagles also saw a free-kick from a similar distance fly over the bar.
It was all Wanderers as the clocked ticked down. Indeed, in the final ten minutes Butland made three top draw saves to deny Andrews, Eagles and a blockbuster of a volley from Alonso.
The best Birmingham could conjure up in a half controlled by Bolton was when Nathan Redmond’s dribble from halfway was foiled by a brilliant fingertip save from Bogdan.
There were plenty of nerves amongst the home fans as Wanderers continued to pile forward until the last kick of the four minutes of stoppage time, but there was no eventual way past Butland and his defence as the search for a first away point of the season continues.
Birmingham:Butland, Murphy, Caldwell, Ibanez, Burke (Redmond 70), Mullins (Fahey 46), King, Elliott, Spector, Caddis (Davies 54), Lita (Subs not used: Doyle, Lovenkrands, Morrison, Asante)
Wanderers: Bogdan, Mears, Alonso, Mills, Eagles, Ngog (Afobe 59), Knight, Kevin Davies, Mark Davies, Spearing (Andrews 16), Chung-Yong (Petrov 59) (Subs not used: Lonergan, Ricketts, Sordell, Pratley)
Read Time: 4 mins