Iain Brunskill's side suffer cruel defeat after dominant display
Wanderers suffered a cruel defeat against Middlesbrough despite controlling the match for the majority at the County Ground.
Liam Trotter rolled the ball home to give the Whites an early lead, only for Callum Cooke to equalise from the penalty spot moments later inside the opening 10 minutes.
Conor Wilkinson hit the crossbar for the Whites, while Eidur Gudjohnsen also missed two chances to put Iain Brunskill's side ahead, before Ryan Brobbel popped up in the final minutes to snatch an unlikely win for Boro against the run of play.
Adam Bogdan made his first appearance in a Wanderers shirt since August as he stepped up his recovery from a hand injury.
Elsewhere Eidur Gudjohnsen started in attack alongside Conor Wilkinson, who was celebrating signing a new contract with the Whites, while there were also places in the starting XI for Liam Trotter and David Wheater.
Wanderers started well and took an early lead through Liam Trotter inside the opening five minutes. The midfielder took advantage of a Middlesbrough defensive error to slot under goalkeeper Joe Fryer when under pressure inside the penalty area.
However, Middlesbrough fought back immediately, wasting no time to level the scores in what was an explosive start the County Ground.
After Oscar Threlkeld brought down Callum Cooke in the penalty area, the Boro man picked himself up to take the spot-kick, confidently sending Adam Bogdan the wrong way.
The Whites could have retaken the lead from their very next attack after Conor Wilkinson found himself in space on the left-hand side of the penalty area.
Looking up the forward powered a shot at goal, beating Fryer at his near post, only to see his thunderous strike cannon back off the underside of the crossbar and away.
Eidur Gudjohnsen showed some smart touches as the half wore on and should have fired Bolton back ahead after combining well with Zach Clough.
Playing a one-two with Clough, the veteran forward found space in the area when running onto the chipped through-ball. However, he was unable to take advantage of the opportunity as Fryer gathered at his feet.
Moments later Kaiyne Woolery volleyed home for the Trotters only to be denied by the offside flag, while at the other end Ryan Brobbel curled a 25-yard free-kick narrowly wide.
Gudjohnsen missed another good opportunity to put Wanderers ahead as the first half drew to close after being picked out by Woolery’s low ball across goal.
The Icelandic international slid in at the far post, but, with the goal gaping, was unable to hit the target as his strike floated over the crossbar.
Gudjohnsen was involved again moments later, this time turning provider as he teed up Clough on the edge of the area. However, Fryer was on hand to palm away the forward’s fierce strike.
Adam Bogdan was called into action in the dying embers of the half, keeping Jordan Jones’ powerful shot with his feet at the near post, in what was the final shot of the half as the two sides went in at the break with the scores level.
Iain Brunskill’s side continued to control proceedings after the interval but were unable to find a breakthrough with Fryer again on hand to frustrate the Whites’ forwards.
Clough played in Woolery inside the opening moments of the half, but despite finding space in the area the winger was unable to beat the Boro keeper.
It was Wilkinson’s turn to come close next, the forward turning well in the area and avoiding numerous challenges before fizzing a strike agonisingly wide of the near post.
Wilkinson came close again soon-after, rising highest to connect Tom Walker’s cross only to see his header float narrowly off-target.
Walker and Clough both tried their luck from the edge of the box as the game entered the final 15 minutes, only to be denied by Fryer on both occasions.
But as Bolton continued to throw bodies forward, Boro broke free in the final minute to snatch the win as Harrison Chapman squared to Brobbel, who was left with the simple task of tapping the ball home into the empty net, much to the frustration of the Trotters who had dominated from start to finish.
Bolton: Bogdan, Threlkeld, Matthews (Maher 46), Taylor, Wheater, Clough, Woolery (Iliev 59), Trotter, Wilkinson, Gudjohnsen, Walker.
Unused subs: Campbell, Woodland, Holding.
Middlesbrough: Fryer, Atkinson, Jackson, Burn, Bennett (Weledji 86), Maloney, Jones, Cooke, McCarthy (Griffiths 88), Kitching (Chapman 75), Brobbel.
Unused subs: Coddington, Wheatley.