The Bantams were left hugely frustrated and in the end disappointed once again after failing to take three points on their own patch. The atmosphere inside the ground was terrific and shooting towards the Kop in the first half, City raced into a two-goal lead through a Charlie Wyke brace. Bolton came out for the second half two goals down but they ultimately took a share of the spoils as goals from David Wheater and Gary Madine brought them back on terms leaving Stuart McCall’s side gut-wrenched.
You could sense the edge in the atmosphere leading up to kick off and Bolton winning the toss and switching City around presented Stuart McCall’s side a chance to shoot towards a packed and loud Kop in the first half.
Ben Alnwick was to probably have the worst first half display of his season and a hurried clearance to prevent Charlie Wyke latching onto Romain Vincelot’s through ball proved to be a sign of things to come, but it was Bolton who had the first decent opening of the game. Rory McArdle cleared tamely under pressure from Adam Le Fondre and the ball fell to Dean Moxey who lashed a left-footed shot wide from just outside the box.
With City’s first real chance of the afternoon, they took the lead. Mark Marshall went for the jugular and ran down the heart of the pitch before picking out Wyke to his left-hand side. The name on everyone’s lips at the moment, he squeezed the ball under Alnwick who really should have done more to keep the ball out. Needless to say, the Bantams had the lead inside ten minutes and Wyke had his second goal for the club.
The fans inside the ground barely had time to calm down before Wyke notched his second of the afternoon. Billy Clarke played a ball into the right channel and Nicky Law beat Alnwick who had strayed into no man’s land to try and win the ball and he looped the ball towards goal where Wyke was on hand to pounce and tap the ball into an empty net. The Kop behind the goal delirious.
In Le Fondre and Gary Madine, Bolton have a partnership that compliment each other pretty well and Le Fondre saw a shot deflect narrowly wide via a block from McArdle. A few minutes later, the Cardiff City loanee squared to his strike partner Madine and he saw a scuffed attempt pushed to one side by Colin Doyle, before Tony McMahon tidied up with a clearance up the field.
Filipe Morais was making his first return to Valley Parade since a move to Bolton on transfer deadline day and his superb cross from the right-hand side gave Madine his next opportunity. Fortunately for City though, the former Sheffield Wednesday frontman headed over the bar in front of around 2,500 travelling supporters.
The pair linked up to create Bolton’s next opportunity, but once again Madine couldn’t keep his header under the crossbar after he’d latched onto a corner delivery into the box. The height between the two teams was mis-matched and perhaps it was a plan of Phil Parkinson’s to break City down from set-piece situations.
Clarke had a chance to make matters worse for Parkinson’s side before the half-time. James Meredith drilled a low cross into the box, Marshall controlled the ball but opted to find Clarke to his right who saw a shot diverted wide by an important block from Mark Beevers.
City started the second half well, something they were guilty of not doing in the last home match against Gillingham. It wasn’t long before the first chance came about and it was one that belonged to Meredith. Marshall did brilliantly to escape Liam Trotter before crossing to the far post but the Australian defender headed over the bar in a promising position.
Madine had been guilty of spurning some decent opportunities in the first half and after receiving a neat return back-heel from Josh Vela, he skied his shot over the bar. Shortly after Josh Cullen had fired a shot over the bar from 15 yards, Bolton found a way back into the game by halving the deficit.
Substitute James Henry delivered the ball into the box and Beevers helped the ball on; Vincelot could only head half clear and the ball bounced favourably into the path of David Wheater up from the back and he scuffed a volley into the net via the inside of the post. Phil Parkinson’s side now had a real route back into a contest that City had controlled up to this point.
Marshall has scored some eye-catching goals this season and he came close to grabbing another shortly after the Bolton goal. The City winger moved into a pocket of space and rifled a left-footer from 20 yards which had Alnwick beaten at full stretch, but fortunately for him the ball went just wide of the target and rattled the stanchion.
McMahon dragged a shot wide of the mark from distance and Marshall spurned an opportunity to score after getting in behind before Bolton equalised. City were guilty of switching off and Henry was allowed the opportunity to cross into the box; his delivery was on the money and Madine guided a header past Doyle and into the back of the net.
Three minutes after Bolton drew level, substitute Timothee Dieng saw a thumping drive from 20 yards come back off the post in a game that had become a contest that really could have gone either way going into the final twenty minutes or so.
Viv Solomon-Otabor looked bright following his introduction as a late substitute and he saw a deflected shot from the edge of the box held onto by his former Birmingham City teammate Colin Doyle.
The game hung finely in the balance and Wyke was presented with an outstanding opportunity to score his hat-trick with three minutes left of the ninety and surely win the age for City. Meredith motored down the left-hand side and into the box before delivering a low cut-back to Wyke, he twisted his body to face goal but he fired a shot over the bar from about 6 yards out.
Bolton broke away in injury time in search of a cruel twist in the plot and Tom Thorpe’s delivery found Madine who looked to add to his tally, but his header on this occasion was held onto by Doyle.
Frustration once again the buzz word with Stuart McCall’s side having to settle for a point against a promotion rival in Bolton Wanderers. It’s a point and unbeaten home run goes on, but it was visibly a real sucker punch for the City players who looked devastated at the final whistle.