Report: Bolton 0-0 Bradford City
Despite dominating the game and producing the better chances Wanderers had to settle for a goalless draw in front of their biggest crowd of the season at Macron Stadium.
The returning skipper Jay Spearing and substitute Zach Clough almost found the net in each half but were denied by a combination of good goalkeeping and ill fortune.
The hosts gave a masterclass in defending as Bradford seldom troubled Mark Howard but were left with just a solitary point at the final whistle.
Captain Spearing returned from suspension to lead the line for Wanderers following their defeat at Walsall seven days earlier. The midfielder came in for Andrew Taylor who dropped to the bench.
Manager Phil Parkinson made one other change with Dean Moxey coming in at left-back at the expense of Andrew Taylor, who was among the substitutes. Meanwhile, the Bantams made just one change with the injured James Hanson making way for Marc McNulty who was making his first start.
Spearing almost put Wanderers ahead with barely a minute gone on the clock. Bolton retained possession from the kick off with a long ball played into the path of Liam Trotter who found Spearing after Sammy Ameobi won in it in the left channel.
Neat footwork from the Wanderers skipper created the space for him to power a venomous drive goal bound. Colin Doyle made a smart stop at the expense of a corner.
It was an energetic start from the hosts and Jamie Proctor got his head to a centre moments later only to see it cleared away.
The visitors soon began to get back into the game with Wanderers struggling to clear their lines at times. For all Bradford’s early possession and dangerous play in the box, Mark Howard wasn’t tested and the hosts began to regain their composure with play settling down after the tempestuous start.
Over 4,000 fans made their way across the M62 and over the Pennines and were in fine voice for the Bantams but they had little to cheer about in terms of goal mouth action as play centred predominantly in the middle of the park.
Spearing, returning from a suspension, found his name in referee Heywood’s book just before the half-hour mark for a challenge on Josh Cullen. Although it was a firm tackle, it seemed a harsh decision to card the Liverpool-born midfielder.
Ameobi almost got his first goal in Wanderers colours minutes later. Howard’s huge clearance upfield wasn’t sufficiently dealt with by the Bantams’ backline.
The industrious Proctor won possession before making a stunning turn to set up Ameobi. The on-loan frontman did well under pressure to get a shot in which was cleared for a corner.
The chance sparked a resurgence in Wanderers as an attacking force and they caused no end of problems of the visitors in the aftermath without challenging Doyle again.
Bradford’s forays into Wanderers’ third were sporadic and Dieng had a rare chance to test Howard, but his effort from range sailed high and wide much to the frustration of his team-mates and the travelling contingent of Bantams.
Howard’s first save came off a low, weak effort from Mark Marshall. But the effort was never going to trouble the Wanderers gloveman who simply gathered up the ball.
Vela, who had earlier produced some feisty but fair tackles, joined his captain in the notebook for a challenge on Cullen.
Both sides went into the interval on terms, but Wanderers edged the half on chances and possession.
Wanderers continued from where they left off and pressed and probed at the visitors.
Bradford struggled to get into gear and were on the back foot for large portions of the early stages often yielding possession to the Whites.
In their rare moments up field, Wanderers coped well, defending superbly as a unit and protecting Howard’s goal stoically.
The diligent Proctor was the third Wanderer to be shown the yellow card. Again, although the tackle on Dieng was a foul it hardly warranted the booking.
Within seconds Wanderers had their best chance of the second period with Henry’s left-footer from distance just going over Doyle’s cross bar.
The chance cranked up the volume from the Wanderers faithful who sensed that the deadlock was about to be broken.
The game was swinging to and fro and the visitors were soon settling down.
After Proctor lost possession, the ball found its way to sub Hiwula who forced a fine stop from Howard, who had to gather at the second attempt. It was the visitors’ best effort of the game – and served to prove that Wanderers had to be weary of the Bantams’ threat on the counter attack.
Phil Parkinson made two changes in quick succession with Thorpe and Clough coming on for Trotter and Ameobi respectively.
Clough almost put Wanderers in front within minutes of coming on. Proctor made another spectacular turn to befuddle the defence, which allowed the substitute to almost curl a right footer in from 20 yards. Doyle was beaten all ends up and the ball agonisingly missed the target. It was Wanderers’ best chance.
Wanderers’ final change came with ten minutes to go. Henry, who had appeared to have picked up a knock, was replaced by Chris Taylor.
But his introduction couldn't help the Whites find a winning goal as the game finished all square at full time.