Bolton Wanderers slipped to a narrow defeat against in-from Crawley Town at the University of Bolton Stadium despite creating more than enough chances to win the game.
Although George Francomb put his side in front after 61 minutes, Wanderers were denied on many occasions by the woodwork, last ditch defending and good goalkeeping.
Manager Ian Evatt made three changes from the side that fought back from three goals down to draw against Carlisle United at Brunton Park on Boxing Day.
Reiss Greenidge, Lloyd Isgrove and Harry Brockbank all returned to the fold at the expense of Ryan Delaney, Alex Baptiste and the suspended Peter Kioso.
Isgrove was unlucky to see a powerful effort blocked by Tom Dallison after Greenidge brought the ball out of defence before Antoni Sarcevic and Eoin Doyle combined brilliantly to tee up the chance.
Nathan Delfouneso’s curling effort with his left peg curled narrowly wide of the target after he had linked up well with George Thomason on the right-hand side.
Sarcevic followed up with a shot of his own from distance but his strike went well wide.
The visitors had their first effort on target just after 18 minutes when Ashley Nadesan forced a routine save out of Matt Gilks.
Wanderers’ cleared their lines after Francomb’s low cross rebounded off the foot of the post when he had managed to round Gilks and get a shot away from a tight angle inside the box.
Crawley were having the better of the game for a period midway through the first half after Wanderers had started well and on the front foot.
Gethin Jones intercepted the ball high up the field shortly afterwards and raced down the left wing to put in a decent ball for Sarcevic but the Wanderers skipper was unable to keep his volley down and the ball went over Glenn Morris’ bar.
Gilks made an instinctive save with his feet at the other end to keep out a snapshot from Jack Powell as Wanderers defended a succession of corners on the half hour mark.
Morris made a crucial stop to keep out a drive from Isgrove at the near post after the Wanderers man was played in by a superb weighted ball from Harry Brockbank.
Some good work from Wanderers after the restart culminated in veteran defender Tony Craig making a vital block as Doyle managed to get away a fierce shot from just inside the box.
Wanderers allowed Crawley to run at them from midfield but through Archie Davies but the ball came to Sam Matthews could only find the hands of Gilks as he let fly from distance.
Sarcevic played a lovely ball into the box for Doyle but the Irishman turned his chance over the bar.
The visitors broke the deadlock on the hour when captain Francomb put the finishing touches on a fine move to guide the ball home.
Doyle almost snatched an equaliser through persistence just moments later but his volley after Jake Hessenthaler had blocked his initial effort was palmed away by Morris.
Thomason almost put Wanderers level but his left-footer took a slight deflection to go the other side of ther post and out for a corner.
Morris made a smart stop to keep out a shot from Jones after the wing back was played in by Thomason and Wanderers were really pressing hard for a leveller.
The Crawley keeper was on top form as he kept out a piledriver from Brockbank after the defender was set up by Isgrove.
Wanderers were now stepping up even more in search of the equaliser their endeavour deserved.
The crossbar came to the rescue of the visitors when Doyle’s header from Sarcevic’s cross rattled off the woodwork.
Wanderers were throwing everything at the Crawley keeper, and Delfouneso’s close range shot from Isgrove’s low centre was somehow kept out by Morris.
But despite creating over 20 chances on goal, they were unable to get the point their play deserved.
Wanderers had to finish the closing stages with ten men after Greenidge was shown a second yellow card.
Gilks, Jones, Almeida Santos, Delfouneso, Doyle, Sarcevic, Greenidge, Tutte, Brockbank, Isgrove, Thomason.
Subs Not Used: Crellin, Taft, Delaney, Comley, Crawford, Darcy, Baptiste.
Morris, Davies, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Dallison, Francomb (Bulman 70), Powell, Hessenthaler, Matthews (Ashford 70), Nichols, Nadesan (Sesay 87).
Subs Not Used: Nelson, McNerney, Frost, Galach.
Goal: Francomb (61).