A battling display from Bolton Wanderers was not enough to earn them a deserved point as they suffered a narrow defeat at high-fliers Leeds United.
Although Mark Beevers’s fourth goal of the campaign cancelled out Patrick Bamford’s opener, a rather fortunate second-half goal from Ezgjan Alioski gifted the hosts all three points.
But Wanderers can take a lot of heart and encouragement from their performance as they battled right until the end to try and salvage a draw.
Phil Parkinson made two changes to his staring XI with Joe Williams and Gary O’Neil coming in for Luke Murphy and Josh Vela who were both named among the substitutes.
The game sparked into life in the third minute when Leeds ‘keeper Kiko Casilla made a stunning save at the expense of a corner to deny a powerful Josh Magennis header from close range after the big Northern Irishman latched onto Callum Connolly’s left sided pinpoint cross.
Just moments later Remi Matthews made an equally important save after Ezgjan Alioki’s deep free kick looked to be looping goalwards.
Wanderers were looking good on the counter attack and with Magennis and Donaldson both up top the midfield had plenty of options as they looked to press forward.
A contentious penalty was awarded to the home side after 15 minutes when Tyler Roberts was adjudged to have been upended by Gary O’Neil as he burst in the box. Wanderers hotly disputed the decision but Patrick Bamford sent Matthews the wrong way to put the hosts in front from the spot.
A deserved equaliser came Wanderers’ way just seven minutes later when Mark Beevers stabbed home from close range after the hosts failed to deal with a loose ball following David Wheater’s header being cleared off the line from O’Neil’s corner.
It was no less than Wanderers deserved and the strike, Beevers’s fourth of the campaign, shoicked the vociferous home support in silence.
The visitors were certainly having the better of their opponents when it came to set pieces, and Donaldson should have done better when O’Neil floated a free-kick into the box.
Another set-piece and another chance came for Wanderers. This time Magennis got to Noone’s delivery with his back to goal and the striker’s volley on the turn went narrowly wide.
Meanwhile, at the other end Matthews was at his most alert to keep out Bamford at the second attempt.
The Wanderers keeper was in action again and made a stunning save to thwart Harrison’s close range header after a cross came in from the right.
The lively Bamford was denied at the near post by Matthews who palmed the striker’s effort away for a corner.
Both teams started the second-half brightly to continue what had been an entertaining game so far.
Some clever play on the right involving Williams, Olkowski and O’Neil earned Wanderers a corner.
The hosts should have taken the lead shortly afterwards when Ayling cut in from the right hand side but could only curl his left footed effort beyond Matthews’ right hand stick.
Almost immediately and it was Wanderers who should have put their noses in front with a double chance. First up, Williams saw his shot batted back into the danger area by Casilla before Magennis headed the rebound back into the keeper’s hands.
Bamford spurned a glorious chance from close range to put his side in front when he failed to get a touch on a ball that came in from the right.
Leeds were stepping up the pressure but the Wanderers defence were holding firm.
From nowhere, though, the hosts took the lead on 68 minutes when a speculative effort from Alioski from distance clipped the underside of the cross bar before going over the line.
The goal had sparked Leeds back into life and Bamford was once again denied at the near post as the home side looked to increase their advantage.
Wanderers hadn’t given up hope of getting a point and substitute Sammy Ameobi was inches away from netting with a powerful left-footed drive after a smart one-two with fellow sub Will Buckley.
Bolton Wanderers: Matthews, Olkowski, Noone (Buckley 81), Lowe, Beevers, Wheater, J, Williams (Murphy 85), Connolly, Donaldson (Ameobi 74), Magennis, O’Neil.
Subs Not Used: B. Williams, Little, Vela, Hobbs.