Report: Bolton 2-2 Middlesbrough
David Ngog's last gasp strike ensured that Wanderers secured a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough at the Reebok Stadium.
A testing clash for all involved, Boro had raced into a two goal lead inside the opening 20 minutes after capitalising on mistakes in the Bolton backline.
Alex Baptiste had given the team hope after halving the deficit with 30 minutes played, but the Whites were to pull level in dramatic fashion as Ngog fired home with ten seconds of normal time remaining.
Dougie Freedman made four changes from the side which were defeated at Leicester last time out, with Joe Mason, Chris Eagles, Darren Pratley and Mark Davies all entering the fray in place of Jermaine Beckford, Rob Hall, Medo and Andre Moritz.
Wanderers’ bench also featured Hayden White for the second game in a row with the Under 21 full-back having been included in the squad for the trip to the King Power Stadium.
Wanderers started brightly as Eagles and Davies combined well inside the first minute, with the former’s lethal ball across the face of goal being cleared away for a corner with a number of white shirts lurking in the box.
Their dominance continued throughout the opening stages of the clash, with Jay Spearing slicing his shot wide while Mason proved himself a nuisance in and around the penalty area.
Having found themselves under pressure early on, Boro almost stunned the Reebok as Mustapha Carayol found himself in acres of space a matter of yards from goal, but Zat Knight was on hand to block his shot from close range.
The opportunity appeared to breathe life into the visitors, with Carayol capitalising on a mistake by Knight to curl the ball beyond Andy Lonergan with nine minutes gone.
A shock to the system after such a dominant start, Wanderers were almost level just three minutes later as Mason laid the ball off for Eagles on the edge of the area, but the winger’s volley drifted just wide of the upright.
With Wanderers having come so close to levelling the scores, the Reebok faithful were stunned into silence with 20 minutes played as a mix-up between Knight and Lonergan resulted in Curtis Main being given the simple task of slotting the ball into an empty net.
The frustration on the faces of the Bolton players was clear to see, with Middlesbrough undeniably on top in the clash and their two goal advantage looking incredibly comfortable.
Against the run of play however, Wanderers were handed a lifeline on the half hour mark as Alex Baptiste halved the deficit by curling the ball past a despairing Shay Given in the Boro goal.
A goal which was desperately needed after such a testing start, the Whites almost drew level two minutes later as Chung-Yong Lee played the ball into the area, but Mason just couldn’t make the contact needed.
With Boro visibly shaken, Wanderers looked set to equalise as Lee capitalised on a mistake at the back to break into the area before pulling the ball back for the advancing Spearing, but the midfielder’s effort was well over the bar.
As the half wore on, the Whites enjoyed a couple more half chances to level the scores but their efforts were in vain as they entered the break behind in the clash.
After ending the first period on top, the second half began in rather lacklustre fashion, with Baptiste’s treatment for a knock inside the opening minutes halting Bolton’s flow.
With chances at a premium, Mason looked to have found the back of the net in the 56th minute as he found himself in space on the right, but the striker’s effort flew into the side netting with many inside the Reebok already on their feet in celebration.
With that opportunity, the noise level rose amongst the home faithful, while Spearing forced Given into a superb reflex save to deny him what would have been an unbelievable goal.
Wanderers were undeniably in control of proceedings, with Boro finding themselves forced deep into their own half in a bid to maintain their lead.
The introduction of Beckford and Moritz with 65 minutes gone was met with rapturous applause by the club’s supporters, but Wanderers’ comeback was almost dealt a blow moments later as Main headed the ball onto Knight who saw it trickle just wide of the post.
Jacob Butterfield, a former Bolton loanee, almost had Boro’s third as he fired goalbound, but the ball flew past the upright much to Wanderers’ relief.
With the rain pouring down at BL6, conditions were certainly becoming difficult to play in with the wind playing its part in proceedings.
Wanderers were left screaming for a penalty as Lee was brought down in the area with 13 minutes to go, but referee Christopher Sarginson was unmoved and waved play on.
The pressure from the Whites was building as the clock ran down, with Moritz forcing Given into a smart save and Beckford skewing an effort horribly wide on the half volley with five minutes remaining.
Just as it seemed as though it wasn't going to be Bolton's afternoon however, substitute David Ngog smashed the ball home through a crowded penalty area with ten seconds of normal time remaining to send the Reebok into raptures and secure Wanderers a point.