Report: Bolton 1-2 Middlesbrough
Bolton Wanderers were narrowly edged out against Middlesbrough in a hard-fought match at Macron Stadium.
Craig Davies had fired the Whites ahead from the penalty spot, only for Grant Leadbitter to level for Boro with a spot-kick of their own on the stroke of half-time.
Kike fired Boro ahead midway through the second half, and despite substitute Jermaine Beckford twice coming close to levelling the scores late on, Bolton could not find an equaliser.
Manager Dougie Freedman made two changes to the side that drew against Nottingham Forest on Saturday as Liam Feeney and Liam Trotter came in for Neil Danns and Medo.
Meanwhile, there was also a place on the bench for 20-year-old right-back Hayden White.
Wanderers were under pressure straight from kick-off as Middlesbrough looked to take an early lead as Kike twice came close to opening the scoring in a matter of minutes.
First lofting the ball onto the roof of Adam Bogdan’s net after finding space in the Whites’ box, the Spaniard later poked the ball goalwards beyond the Hungarian, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag as David Wheater got back to hack it off the goal-line regardless.
Bolton had their first shot on goal moments later as Joe Mason fed Liam Feeney with the winger trying his luck from range, only for his effort to sail over the bar.
Jay Spearing saw a free-kick fly off-target, while Lee Chung-Yong also failed to hit the target from outside the box as the Trotters were restricted to long-range strikes from distance for the opening half-hour.
However, that all changed when Wanderers were awarded a penalty after Craig Davies was hauled down in the penalty area by Seb Hines, allowing the forward to pick himself up and hammer home the spot-kick himself to put Dougie Freedman’s side ahead.
Having earlier seen penalty appeals turned away after Lee Tomlin went in the box, Boro were awarded a spot-kick of their own just before the break as Wheater was adjudged to have handled in the box against his former side.
Captain Grant Leadbitter was the man to step up and take the kick, making no mistake as he confidently fired the ball past Bogdan into the top right-hand corner, to ensure the sides went in at half-time with the scores level.
After a slow start to the second, the Whites had the first chance to take the lead after the break as Boro only half-cleared a Feeney corner, with the ball falling to Lee on the edge of the box.
The Korean hit a first-time side-footed volley through a ruck of players, leaving Tomas Mejias stranded, only to see his effort fly just wide of the post.
Bolton should have taken the lead midway through the second half after a brilliant piece from Lee down the right-hand side.
Evading a challenge from George Friend, the Korean left the Boro left back on his backside before pulling the ball back to the unmarked Feeney. The winger failed to hit the target with his first-time effort however, his strike sailing over the crossbar.
At the other end Bogdan did well to keep out Adam Reach’s fierce strike at the near post, while Tomlin tried his luck from range on a couple of occasions for Boro, but could only fire straight at Bogdan on both occasions.
Middlesbrough did not have to wait much longer to take the lead however, as Kike lofted the ball over Bogdan into the empty net after running onto a Reach through-ball.
Freedman responded immediately by introducing Jermaine Beckford and Neil Danns to the action in place of Craig Davies and Liam Trotter as the Trotters looked to net a late equaliser.
And Beckford twice nearly provided it within minutes of coming on, first firing narrowly wide of the far post after being unleashed down the right-hand side.
Moments later Wanderers believed the equaliser had come after Beckford prodded home from close-range, only to see his strike ruled out for an apparent foul on a defender.
Wheater was pushed further forward into attack as the Whites continued to push for an equaliser, but try as they might they could not find a way though a stubborn Boro defence, falling to a narrow 2-1 defeat.