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8 March 2016

Town denied top six spot by last minute penalty

Town were denied a place in the top six by a last minute equaliser from the penalty spot from Stephen Dobbie.

Blues had led through goals from Kevin Bru and Christophe Berra with 18 minutes to go but a brilliant volley from Lawrie Wilson reduced the arrears.

It still looked enough for Town to leave with the points until Ainsley Maitland-Niles was judged to have fouled Wellington Silva and Dobbie scored from the spot.

The gentle tones of Abide With Me echoed around the Macron Stadium before kick-off as Bolton remembered the 70th anniversary of the Burnden Park Disaster where 33 people were killed at the former home of Wanderers.

The game kicked off in a subdued atmosphere with Town making one change to the side that beat Nottingham Forest at the weekend, Jonathan Douglas recovering from a foot injury to replace Luke Hyam in the centre of the park.

Bolton could have been ahead in the first exchanges, Darren Pratley failing to hit the target after Liam Feeney got clear down the left.

Zach Clough cut through the Town midfield to test Bart Bialkowski from the edge of the box as the home side started positively, Feeney whipping in a cross that fizzed past the far post.

Clough sent a shot over the bar, Freddie Sears then forcing a corner in Town’s first real foray forward. Bolton broke from the flag kick though and Clough claimed a penalty after a challenge from Kevin Foley, referee Mark Haywood awarding a corner.

Town began to grow into the game and Paul Rachubka kept out Sears’ strike from the edge of the box while at the other end Berra cancelled out the threat from the dangerous Clough.

Town got the breakthrough on 23 minutes, a corner was cleared to Bru on the edge of the box and the midfielder found the roof of the net with a fantastic finish. 

Brett Pitman was close to heading in from Jonas Knudsen’s cross as Blues threatened a second, the summer arrival then sending a 25 yarder just wide after Sears’ pass.

Former Blue, Liam Trotter and Clough, both failed to force the ball home from three yards out when a goal looked certain, then Bialkowski produced another out of his recent catalogue of brilliant saves, denying Derik Osede from close range after initially keeping out Dean Moxey’s shot. 

Bolton pressed for an equaliser, referee Haywood turning down another penalty appeal, this time for handball, then Pratley’s shot blocked and cleared following a game of pinball in the Town area as an eventful first-half came to an end.

Bru, who received lengthy treatment before the break, lasted only five minutes into the second-half before being replaced by Luke Varney, the substitute immediately in the action with a burst down the left flank, his cross cleared as Pitman challenged at the back post.

Clough was crowded out as he tried to weave past three Town players 15 yards out, Mark Davies’ effort smothered by a line of Blue, while at the other end Knudsen almost found Pitman after linking up with Sears on the break.

Hyam replaced Foley in Town’s second change, with Maitland-Niles on for Ben Pringle soon after and it was from the Arsenal loanee’s first touch that Town grabbed a second on 72 minutes, Berra heading home his free-kick.

Bolton were back in the game immediately though, Bialkowski punched clear but Wilson volleyed in from 25 yards.

Bialkowski was in the right place to save from Clough’s header, Jay Spearing then yellow carded after shoving Pitman. 

Tommy Smith was just wide with a diving header as Town looked to wrap up the points, Gary Madine unable to beat Bialkowski with his header as the 90 minute mark approached.   

The Town ‘keeper held firm again deep into the six minutes of added time but Maitland-Niles was judged to have caught Silva and Dobbie buried the penalty with virtually the last kick.

Bolton: Rachubka, Wilson, Derik, Holding, Moxey, Spearing, Trotter (Madine 67), Davies, Pratley (Silva 90), Feeney, Clough (Dobbie 83). Subs not used: Campbell, Danns, Woolery, Finney. Booked: Spearin, Silva.

Town: Bialkowski, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Knudsen, Foley (Hyam 68), Douglas, Pringle (Maitland-Niles 69), Bru (Varney 50), Sears, Pitman. Subs not used: Gerken, Digby, Tabb, Toure.
Att: 12, 681


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