Report: Bolton 2-2 Brighton
Gary Madine’s first goal in Bolton colours earned Wanderers a deserved share of the spoils against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday afternoon.
Following a bright start from the Whites, it was the Seagulls who took the lead against the run of play as Dale Stephens hammered home, with Jamie Murphy doubling their advantage shortly after.
Neil Danns however halved the deficit just before the break, while Murphy received a red card late on for a tackle on the midfielder.
And just as it seemed as though it wasn’t going to be the home side’s day, Madine’s header deep into stoppage time eluded David Stockdale in the Brighton net to send Macron Stadium into raptures.
Neil Lennon handed a debut to full-back Francesco Pisano, while Max Clayton and David Wheater both started for Wanderers following their returns from injury.
Wanderers started brightly, with Gary Madine forcing the Brighton defence to clear their lines early on following a smart run from the forward.
Clayton was next to try his luck with a looping effort which David Stockdale pushed over with his fingertips in the fourth minute of the clash.
The hosts were the side in the ascendancy, with Brighton struggling to even get out of their own half inside the opening ten minutes of the clash.
As the tempo of the game calmed down somewhat, the visitors did manage to creep upfield in spurts but did nothing to really trouble the Bolton defence.
Once back in control, the Whites almost snatched the lead as, following a superb clearance from Ben Amos, Liam Feeney found himself in on goal but saw his eventual shot deflected and put behind by Stockdale.
Bolton’s pressure continued, with Neil Danns seeing a free-kick from just outside the box narrowly clear the goalmouth in the 25th minute while Clayton came within inches of nodding home a Feeney in-swinger soon after.
As the game reached the half-hour mark, Brighton ventured forward and found themselves in front against the run of play, Dale Stephens slammed home from just outside the box after Amos was pulled out of his goalmouth by some trickery from Bobby Zamora.
Buoyed by their opener, Liam Rosinior was next to try his luck from distance, with his snapshot from 25 yards whisking past the upright.
Wanderers were caught out once again though just two minutes later however, Jamie Murphy finishing off a well-worked counter attack to double Brighton’s advantage in the 34th minute.
A cruel blow for Bolton who had ruled proceedings from the offset, they were back in the clash with five minutes of the half to go as Danns drilled home from the edge of the box to halve the deficit – the very least Wanderers deserved given their first half efforts.
Just what was needed to lift everybody of a Bolton persuasion, the Trotters continued their siege on the Brighton goal as the clock ran down to half time but it ultimately proved to be fruitless as the visitors retained their slender advantage at the break.
Wanderers were almost back level just 30 seconds into the second period as Mark Davies broke forward following the restart, but after being dispossessed Gary Madine was unable to find the advancing Clayton.
The visitors were soon back on the attack themselves however, with Liam Rosenior seeing an angled drive flash just wide of the mark with 48 minutes on the clock.
Bolton were pressing, but Brighton were still looking dangerous on the break with Prince nodding a Zamora shot away from danger at the death with a number of fluorescent shirts lurking while Rosenior forced Amos to get down low to deny his thunderous strike.
It was end to end at Macron Stadium, although Wanderers were enjoying more of the ball as the half grew on with the Seagulls relying heavily on counter attacks.
The manager made his first change of the game with 20 minutes remaining, with Stephen Dobbie replacing Wellington as Wanderers went all out attack in search of an equaliser.
Feeney and Madine almost combined for a superb equaliser three minutes later, with the latter knocking the ball down into the path of the winger who struck it first time, only to see Stockdale deny his palm-stinger.
With 16 minutes to go, Brighton were down to ten as goalscorer Murphy went in late on Danns, with the referee left with no choice but to dismiss him.
A fillip for the home side, Wanderers threw men forward as the game entered its final ten minutes with the now recovered Danns slicing a shot wide of the mark.
Neil Lennon introduced Tom Walker into the fray in place in Clayton with seven minutes to go, while Jay Spearing replaced Danns shortly after.
It was all Bolton in the closing stages, with Stockdale and his defence under constant pressure.
Wanderers did have the ball in the net as the clock struck 90, but the assistant referee flagged for an infringement with Madine denied his first Bolton goal.
David Wheater was even thrown upfront inside the final minutes of the game in a bid to force a Bolton goal.
Just when it seemed as though it wasn’t going to be Wanderers’ day however, Madine sent Macron Stadium into raptures with a header that eluded Stockdale and earned him his first goal for the club.
There was even time for Prince to flash a header just wide of the mark, but the game ended all square at the final whistle with Wanderers securing a deserved point.
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