Report: Bradford City 2-2 Bolton
Wanderers illustrated their battling qualities as they fought back from a two-goal deficit to earn a precious point in their pursuit for promotion against Bradford City.
Second half strikes from stand-in captain David Wheater and Gary Madine levelled matters after an early double salvo from Charlie Wyke had threatened to dampen Bolton's day.
But a solid second-half display, led by a great cameo from substitute James Henry, underlined the Whites’ credentials for a return to the Sky Bet Championship.
Wanderers made two enforced changes from the side that ground out victory against Rochdale on Tuesday evening.
Jay Spearing’s two-game suspension saw a return to the starting XI for Tom Thorpe while Dean Moxey came in for the injured Andrew Taylor. David Wheater wore the captain’s armband.
Over 2,500 Wanderers fans made the journey across the M62 to contribute to a fierce atmosphere at the Northern Commercials Stadium.
The hosts won an early corner after Mark Marshall caused mayhem on the right hand side but the chance was wasted as it was over hit and went for a goal kick.
For the third game in a row, Wanderers played with three at the back, but were finding it difficult to settle into a rhythm due to Bradford’s energetic start.
The game’s first effort on target, however, came from an unlikely source with Moxey snatching onto a loose ball to volley wide from 20 yards.
Adam Le Fondre followed it up with an effort that was comfortably gathered by Doyle moments later.
But Bradford stole the lead on ten minutes through Charlie Wyke. Marshall powered his way through the centre and found Wyke who peeled away to his left before firing goalwards. Alnwick got to the ball, but it somehow evaded him and in nestled into the back of the net.
The playing surface looked heavy and tired and played a part in the goal as the ball seemed to take an ungainly bobble as it made its way to the Wanderers’ shot stopper.
The strike only intensified the Bantams’ attacking intent and they caused Wanderers’ persistent problems down each flank.
Another mistake lead to Bradford’s second goal, with Wyke doubling his tally for the afternoon. Alnwick was left isolated as he came out to clear the ball at the edge of his box.
But Law won the race and flicked the ball over the advancing keeper affording the former Carlisle man a simple tap-in.
Wanderers earned a corner after Le Fondre’s deflected drive was palmed away by Doyle.
Madine had good chance to reduce arrears after Le Fondre’s constant probing brought about the chance, but the big frontman didn’t strike the ball strongly enough to trouble Doyle.
Again, another good opportunity presented itself when Le Fondre combined with Morais, who put in a searching cross at the far post. But Madine was unable to direct the chance on target.
Wanderers had more about them as the half wore on but rued the missed chances that fell their way.
No changes were made during the break by either side but the hosts could have extended their lead five minutes after the restart when full back James Meredith headed over from close range.
A neat move involving Thorpe, Vela and Morais culminated in Madine placing a shot high and wide.
Parkinson made a double attacking substitution shortly before the hour mark with James Henry and Viv Solomon-Otabor coming on for Moxey and Trotter.
Morais moved over to the left hand side with Solomon-Otabor playing on the right.
The change paid immediate dividends when Wheater reduced the arrears. Henry’s free-kick wasn’ dealt with and the ball fell into the path of the big centre-half who guided the ball home on 63 minutes.
Marshall, a constant threat throughout, enjoyed a powerful left footed drive that wnet narrowly wide as Bradford looked to regain their two-goal lead.
Wanderers turned the game on its head with 15 minutes remaining when a superb cross from Henry was met emphatically by the head of Madine who netted to silence the Bantams faithful and send the travelling Wanderers fans into ecstasy.
Since the substitutions, Wanderers looked more potent in midfield and the final third.
Dieng, who had early replaced Clarke, almost put the hosts back in front when his left footed drive cannoned off the foot of Alwick’s right hand post.
Wanderers were looking increasingly dangerous from set-pieces and Solomon-Otabor was unfortunate not to see his deflected drive go past Doyle.
Wyke should have completed hat trick with five minutes remaining when he lost Derik with a smart turn before blasting high and wide over the bar.
Parkinson then made Wanderers’ final substitution with Connor Wilkinson coming on for Le Fondre.
In the first minute of injury time, Madine had a free-header on goal las he connect with Thorpe’s centre, but couldn’t direct the ball past Doyle.
Both sides had to settle for a point but Wanderers’ battling qualities were firmly underlined as they fought their way back into the contest.