Bolton Wanderers earned a battling point as they held Sunderland to a Boxing Day stalemate at the Stadium of Light.
Keith Hill’s men carved enough chances against former manager Phil Parkinson’s Black Cats to win the game and on balance were unlucky not to be heading back to Bolton with a fine festive haul of three points.
Hill named an unchanged starting XI from the side that beat Southend United at the University of Bolton Stadium last time out.
Sunderland enjoyed the first chance of the afternoon, looking to extend their own supporter’s Christmas celebrations, when Charlie Wyke turned the ball narrowly wide after latching on to Denver Hume’s cross.
A couple of minutes later and Max Power latched on to a loose ball, after Wanderers had failed to sufficiently clear a corner, only to see his volley go comfortably over the bar.
It wasn’t all going Sunderland’s way and the visitors had a big chance to break the deadlock when Ronan Darcy fired over the bar from ten yards out after connecting with Joe Dodoo’s great right-sided cross.
Remi Matthews had to be alert to prevent Grant Leadbitter’s corner from being converted by targetman Wyke.
Another good chance went Wanderers way when Josh Earl picked out Dodoo, who slid the ball into the path of Darcy. The young Wanderers midfielder was denied, though, by the advancing Joe McLaughlin.
Earl made a superb block to deny Duncan Watmore after the Sunderland man was set up by Lynden Gooch.
The host were looking threatening on set pieces and Leadbitter’s corner was headed wide at the near post by Luke O’Nien.
At the other end, Luke Murphy tried his luck from range after being teed up by Daryl Murphy but his effort went wide.
Matthews made another important stop to prevent O’Nien from breaking the deadlock after he met Hume’s cross.
Sunderland thought they had taken the lead just after the half hour mark when another Leadbitter corner wasn’t dealt with. Tom Flanagan’s header had beaten everybody but the goal was ruled out for a foul in the build up.
Wanderers responded shortly afterwards with Luke Murphy earning a corner after being presented with a shooting chance by Daryl Murphy.
The visitors started well as the second-half began and were eager to convert. Thibaud Verlinden was played in by the lively Darcy but, with Luke Murphy available to his left, he opted to shoot which unfortunately was blocked.
O’Nien was presented with a chance to put his side in front from distance but his free-kick didn’t cause any consternation for Wanderers as it flew over the bar.
Just like last week, Verlinden was coming more into the game in after half-time and his dangerous delivery was eventually claimed by McLaughlin.
O’Nien’s fierce first time drive, after connecting with Watmore’s centre, .went narrowly wide of the post.
Matthews then held onto a 20-yard deflected shot by Gooch after latching on to Wyke’s knockdown.
Wanderers made their first change of the afternoon when Chris O’Grady came on for Verlinden just after the hour.
Chris Maguire, who had only just come on as sub himself, saw a free-kick go just wide of target.
Just a minute later, and the best chance of the game fell to Wanderers.
Daryl Murphy got in a powerful header on target after Josh Emmanuel put in a brilliant cross after beating his man only to see McLaughlin pull off a smart save to thwart the in-form Irishman.
With just under ten minutes remaining, it was Matthews’ turn to make an important save, and what a spectacular one it was, when he flung himself to pull off a one=handed stop to prevent Maguire’s free-kick from going in.
A couple of moments later, and Maguire was once again on set-piece duties but this time his effort from distance wasn’t on target.
The hosts were stepping up the pressure as the game was heading towards its dying embers and Power hit an angled drive wide of target from inside the box.
Matthews made another stunning save deep into time added on to thwart Maguire whose curling shot was heading into the top corner.
But both sides ended up sharing the spoils and Wanderers will be looking to build on the draw with a maximum against Shrewsbury when they return to league action on Sunday at the University of Bolton Stadium.