U21s: Wanderers 2-2 West Brom

Cian Bolger's late strike secures a point against the Baggies.

Wanderers’ Under-21s picked up their first point of the season with a hard earned 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion at the County Ground.

Chris Lester had given Bolton the lead from close range, but a goal from Saido Berahino either side of half time looked to have condemned the Whites to defeat.

Not to be deterred however, Wanderers hit back late on through Cian Bolger to ensure that the clash ended all square.

The visitors were first out of the traps with Morgan Ferrier almost setting up Kemar Roofe inside the opening 30 seconds of the game, but Wanderers captain Bolger rose high to head the ball to safety.

Having survived an early scare, Jamie Fullarton’s side almost snatched the lead themselves in the third minute after Tom Youngs played an inch perfect ball into the path of an unmarked Tom Eaves, but the striker dragged his shot just wide with Baggies keeper Jack Rose already beaten.

With not much to separate the two sides in the opening stages, Wesley Atkinson squandered arguably the best opportunity of the match so far as he played the ball across the face of goal in the eighth minute, but he was unable to find a West Brom body.

Wanderers looked certain to take the lead moments later as Andy Kellett played his free-kick over the top of the Baggies defence into the path of Youngs who took everybody by surprise by eluding the offside trap, but the youngster failed to keep his volley down with the goal at his mercy.

The Whites were seemingly growing in confidence, with Lester and Oscar Threlkeld proving themselves to be a nuisance in and around the visitors’ penalty area.

Youngs enjoyed yet another chance to break the deadlock in the 19th minute, but the striker’s half volley failed to trouble Rose who calmly collected the ball.

After a period of sustained pressure and with a goal seeming to be imminent, Lester poked the ball home from a yard out after Tom Eaves had connected with Kellett’s dangerous ball across goal in the 23rd minute.

Eaves’ initial shot looked to have taken a deflection, but the winger was on hand to ensure that Wanderers finally got the goal that their dominance deserved as he forced the ball over the line.

Having found themselves behind, the Baggies nearly hit back immediately as Roofe fired his free-kick over the Bolton wall, but Jay Lynch did well to prevent an equaliser with a professional save.

The Whites almost responded in emphatic fashion just short of the half hour mark as Youngs fired goal bound from an acute angle, but his shot flew just past the upright.

After finding themselves on the back foot for much of the first half, West Brom snatched an equaliser against the run of play in the 40th minute after Lynch failed to clear his lines, giving Berahino the simple task of firing the ball into the back of the net from just inside the area.

Despite their disappointment however, Wanderers were given the opportunity to retake the lead on the stroke of half time as Youngs was taken down by Rose inside the area and the referee pointed to the penalty spot, but Eaves’ spot kick crashed against the crossbar.

With the first period having finished in dramatic fashion, the opening stages of the second were fairly calm in comparison before Berahino almost doubled his tally in the 50th minute as he curled the ball towards goal, but Lynch was quick to react to deny the striker.

Mani O’Sullivan was next to test the Wanderers goalkeeper but his shot clipped the crossbar, much to the relief of Lynch.

West Brom were piling on the pressure, with Alex Jones forcing the Bolton shot-stopper into yet another smart save from close range after he turned his man inside the area, while Berahino unleashed yet another scorching shot which Lynch parried away.

Despite finding themselves on the back foot, there were still glimpses of a goal threat from the Wanderers’ front line, with Youngs and Eaves ensuring that the Baggies’ defence were kept alert with a number of powerful runs into the area.

Youngs was handed a glorious opportunity to hand Wanderers the lead in the 70th minute after Sanmi Odelusi found him in space on the edge of the area, but he fired the ball straight at Rose under pressure.

Conor Wilkinson was added to the mix in place of Youngs as the Whites went in search of a winning goal, while Eaves narrowly missed connecting with Kellett’s ball across goal with Rose nowhere in sight.

With Wanderers seemingly finding their feet in the game however, they were hit with a sucker punch as Berahino doubled his tally with a powerful header from close range with just 14 minutes left on the clock.

The striker almost completed his hat trick with eight minutes remaining as he was found in space on the edge of the area, but Lynch did well to parry his stinging shot, while Jones had him scrambling at his near post.

With time running out, Wanderers pushed forward and were rewarded as they pulled themselves back onto level terms after a goalmouth scramble, Bolger stabbing the ball home with three minutes left.

Substitute Wilkinson had initially headed the ball at Rose who parried it away, but Bolger was on hand to equalise from close range.

The visitors piled forward inside the closing stages in a bid to restore their lead, but Wanderers stood firm and held out for a well-deserved point.

Wanderers: Lynch, Mears (White, 45), Kellett, Ream, Bolger, Vela, Lester, Threlkeld, Eaves (Clough, 84), Youngs (Wilkinson, 73), Odelusi

Subs not used: Campbell, Kelly

West Bromwich Albion: Rose, Francis, Atkinson, Birch, Daniels (c), Gayle, Roofe, O’Sullivan (Hayes, 68), Jones, Berahino, Ferrier (Garmston, 62)

Subs not used: Palmer, Jones, Nabi
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