Report: Bolton 2-2 Birmingham
Wanderers ended their 2013/14 campaign with a 2-2 draw against Birmingham City at the Reebok Stadium.
With the Whites having opened up a two goal lead courtesy of strikes from Chung-Yong Lee and Lukas Jutkiewicz, the visitors were given hope through Nikola Zigic’s header before Paul Caddis’ dramatic equaliser secured a point for the Blues and in turn their Championship status.
Dougie Freedman made just one change to the side who emerged victorious over Sheffield Wednesday last time out with Andrew Lonergan replacing Adam Bogdan between the sticks while Oscar Threlkeld retained his place amongst the Bolton backline after his full debut against the Owls.
There was little action of note inside the opening five minutes of the clash, but it was to be the visitors who enjoyed the first real opportunity which Nikola Zigic slammed into the body of David Wheater from just outside the penalty area.
Not to be deterred however, Wanderers tested Darren Randolph soon after with Rob Hall’s free kick narrowly flying over the Birmingham keeper’s crossbar.
Visibly boosted by their travelling support, Lee Clark’s side were certainly pressuring Wanderers inside the early stages with Lee Novak inches away from handing the Blues the lead with 12 minutes on the clock after narrowly eluding Paul Caddis’ ball across goal.
Having weathered the storm, Chung-Yong Lee almost capitalised on a lapse in concentration amongst the Birmingham defence as he cut inside his man on the edge of the box, but the Korean couldn’t keep his effort on target.
Following a bright start to proceedings, the game appeared to drop in tempo slightly at the halfway point of the first period but the visitors still looked dangerous on the break with Chris Burke and Caddis proving themselves a nuisance in and around the Bolton penalty area.
Despite Wanderers being restricted to chances from set pieces, Hall almost made the most of a free-kick awarded just outside the Birmingham penalty area with 13 minutes of the half left with Randolph left scrambling for his bottom corner, but the winger’s shot flew narrowly wide of the upright.
As the half wore on, Novak enjoyed two glorious opportunities to break the deadlock from both close range and distance, but the frontman was denied by two superb reflex saves by Lonergan.
Novak looked to have opened the scoring in the 37th minute as Zigic rose above the Bolton defence and nodded the ball towards goal with the former poking it over the line, but the referee penalised the towering striker for an infringement and awarded a free-kick to Wanderers.
The visitors did throw men forward as the first period drew to its conclusion, but Wanderers soaked up the pressure to ensure that the half ended all square.
Having proven himself a threat during the first half, Caddis almost snatched an early advantage as he stretched to meet Zigic’s knock-down in front of goal, but Lonergan was out quickly to scoop the ball to safety and deny the Birmingham man.
The pressure continued from the Blues, but Wanderers almost hit them on the break as Jermaine Beckford broke free of the Birmingham defence, only for the striker to lose control at the pivotal moment.
Despite having dominated proceedings throughout the second period, the visitors’ resolve was undone with 57 minutes on the clock as Chung-Yong Lee collected the ball yards from goal and slammed home from a narrow angle to give Wanderers the lead.
The Whites’ opener led to a double substitution by Birmingham, with Jordan Ibe and Federico Macheda being introduced into the fold as the St Andrew’s outfit went in search of an equalising goal.
The move almost reaped immediate dividends as Ibe powered to the by-line and played the ball across the face of goal into the feet of Novak, but the striker couldn’t get his effort on target with the goal at his mercy.
The on-loan Liverpool man enjoyed a chance of his own with 19 minutes remaining as he unleashed a scoring free-kick towards goal, but Lonergan was on his guard to parry the effort away and preserve Wanderers’ lead.
With the visitors piling forward inside the final 15 minutes of the clash, Wanderers proceeded to hit them with a sucker punch as substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz’s narrow angled strike squirmed under the body of Randolph and into the back of the net.
No sooner had the Whites extended their lead however, the visitors were back in the clash as Zigic’s header eluded Lonergan to send the travelling fans into raptures behind the goal.
A lifeline for the Blues, Clark’s side launched a tirade of attacks on the Bolton goal including a venomous long distance strike from Tom Adeyemi which the Whites’ keeper smothered to safety.
Up the other end of the pitch however, Andy Kellett and Jutkiewicz combined with the latter’s shot being parried by Randolph, but Kellett himself couldn’t turn home the rebound.
With six minutes of added time indicated, the visitors pushed forward in their numbers and were rewarded in the fourth minute as Caddis scrambled the ball home from close range after a goalmouth scramble.
Despite a late rally from Wanderers to restore their advantage, the efforts were ultimately in vain as the game ended all square.
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