Nick Powell’s piledriver rescues late point in dramatic derby at the Reebok Stadium.
Substitute Nick Powell’s 88th minute equaliser earned a dramatic derby draw at the Reebok after it looked for all the world as if Uwe Rosler’s Latics would go down to their second defeat in succession. But Adam Bogdan’s brilliant last second penalty save from Jordi Gomez prevented what would have been a quite incredible turnaround and Latics had to be satisfied with the point.
Having gone a goal up so early in the match, the home side were able to soak up the pressure and Latics simply could not find a way through until the very last minutes. At the other end, Bolton’s pace on the break was a constant threat and Ali Al Habsi was called upon to save the day on several occasions with crucial saves. Disappointment in one way, but another real battling point.
Roared on by a magnificent away following, it was a deeply frustrating afternoon for all connected with Latics but Uwe Rosler and his players know there is so much left to play for in the coming weeks and will need to regroup quickly before Tuesday’s visit of leaders Leicester City.
The Rosler rotation we have become accustomed to in recent weeks – and which has yielded such impressive results – continued here, with no fewer than seven changes made from the game at QPR in midweek.
The good news was that Leon Barnett was fit again to play after missing out on three matches with his hamstring strain, and there was also a return for captain Emmerson Boyce after he was rested for Loftus Road.
Other players back in the starting line-up were Jordi Gomez, Jean Beausejour, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Martyn Waghorn and Ryan Tunnicliffe. Ivan Ramis, Jack Collison, Rob Kiernan and Nick Powell dropped to the bench, where there was also a return for Callum McManaman after injury and Lee Nicholls – Scott Carson was ill.
‘There is no question of the side being weakened,’ Uwe Rosler explained, ‘especially when you look at the players coming in. Quite the opposite, this is the way we can maintain the energy levels needed to cope with the fixture list.’
The game started as frenetically as you would expect in a high octane derby, Richard Hall forcing Ali Al Habsi into a save in the first minute. There was little chance of Latics getting into a rhythm, with one or two passes going astray. Al Habsi parried another effort, this time from Lukas Jutkiewicz who found himself free just inside the box after 6 minutes.
Latics’ first real threat came after a quarter of an hour, David Wheater clearing well at the feel of Boyce from Waghorn’s cross following a partially cleared corner. Suddenly it was Latics’ turn to look dangerous and Fortune’s effort on the turn was deflected for a corner with Adam Bogdan beaten. Bogdan and Zat Knight then had a moment of confusion and the ball had to be scrambled to safety with James McClean bearing down.
Bolton took the lead from a free-kick out on the right after Barnett was judged to have fouled Jutkiewicz. Hall curled in a dangerous ball to the far post and Jutkiewitcz managed to get a toe to it first to divert it past Al Habsi. Agony for Latics. Barnett immediately headed over from a similar situation at the other end, Gomez with the delivery. Hall then hooked over for Bolton as the game swung back and forth.
Medo Kamara was booked as Latics broke and he scythed down McClean on the halfway line with Waghorn free in the centre. Waghorn then shot on the turn inside the box but it was a simple smother for Bogdan
Plenty of good endeavour from Latics in the first half then, without that clinical touch in the final third.
McClean was replaced by Callum McManaman at the break in an attempt to wrestle back the initiative and he earned a free-kick inside three seconds and a shot at goal within 30 seconds, fitting in two mazy runs into the bargain. A sign of things to come, hoped the 3,500 fans in front of him.
Latics pressed but with Bolton set up to defend their lead, the breakaway was a constant danger and Hall stung Al Habsi’s fingertips inside the first five minutes of the half. But Latics came roaring back and Barnett forced Bogdan into blocking for a corner at the far post from Beausejour’s deep floating cross.
There was controversy when Barnett was booked after pulling down Trotter on the edge of the box as Bolton broke once more, Bolton fans calling for a red card. Latics were having trouble finding a path past Bolton’s physical presence and Collison came on for Tunnicliffe on the hour mark to try and make a difference.
Al Habsi again had to parry over an effort following a set-piece earned on the break, this time from Jay Spearing, before Wheater’s header was tipped over and Tim Ream’s drive saved. Latics just did not seem to be able to contain Bolton on the break and Al Habsi was turning into the hero.
Could the final 20 minutes yield a change of fortune? Maybe, as McManaman forced a close range save from Bogdan but for every Latics attack there seemed to be an army of white shirts back to defend.
Rosler’s last throw of the dice came in the shape of Nick Powell replacing McArthur with 20 minutes remaining. Would he be able to unlock the door?
McManaman switched to the right hand side and immediately forced two quick corners but still Latics could not find a way through, until it finally came!
Waghorn delivered a low cross into the box, Fortune stepped over the ball and substitute Powell smashed the ball in from eight yards at the far post, to the delight of the travelling fans.
Then, deep into stoppage time, more drama as Alex Baptiste brought down McManaman in the area – absolute clear cut penalty. With virtually the final kick of the game, Gomez stepped up and saw his spot kick brilliantly saved by Bogdan. What a game and despite the disappointment of the penalty, a fair result, you have to admit.