Honours even in 1-1 draw at the Macron Stadium...
BOLTON 1 (Gudjohnsen pen 48), UNITED 1 (Austin pen 3).
Bolton: Lonergan, Vela, Mills, Dervite (Wheater 66), Ream, Trotter (Davies 72), Danns, Pratley, Feeney, Gudjohnsen (Walker 90), Heskey. Subs. Bogdan, Moxey, Spearing, Wilkinson.
United: Silvestri, Berardi, Bellusci, Cooper, C Taylor, Byram, Austin, Murphy, Cook, Sloth (Mowatt 85), Morison. Subs. S Taylor, Pearce, Bianchi, Montenegro, Antenucci, Sharp.
Referee: A Woolmer
Booked: Trotter, Danns (Bolton), Bellusci (United)
Att: 18,844 (3,918 United)
After ringing the changes for the previous weekend’s FA Cup trip to Sunderland, Neil Redfearn tinkered with his side again at Bolton as Giuseppe Bellusci, Sam Byram, Lewis Cook and Steve Morison all came in.
United started on the front foot and within just two minutes of getting proceedings underway were awarded a penalty after Sam Byram raced through on goal to be hauled down by the onrushing Andy Lonergan. Rodolph Austin stepped up confidently and duly tucked the spot-kick away, sending Lonergan the wrong way to give Redfearn’s side an early lead to the delight of the travelling army.
It was a dream start and one which United looked to immediately build on. Austin's inch-perfect delivery from the right found Morison unmarked inside the area and the striker did everything right to guide his diving header on target, only to be denied by a superb, sprawling Lonergan save.
Bolton looked to respond, with a last-ditch challenge from Charlie Taylor stealing the ball from Liam Trotter’s feet as he looked to go through on goal, before Matt Mills headed the resulting corner inches wide of Marco Silvestri’s post.
Eidur Gudjohnsen then skimmed the side-netting with a curling free-kick, but United were looking a threat on the break and Luke Murphy twice saw efforts blocked in front of goal after a swift breakaway involving Lewis Cook down the left.
As the rain lashed down at an already blustery Macron Stadium, the hosts were beginning to see more of the ball inside the United half. Liam Feeney smashed over Silvestri’s bar from range before Taylor scrambled clear off the line following a corner as the defence held firm. Feeney then scuffed into Silvestri’s arms after being found arriving at the back post.
But, after remaining solid through a testing spell of pressure, United looked to get back in the ascendency and Bolton just managed to clear their lines as Morison eyed a volley in the closing stages of a keenly-fought first half.
Both sides returned from the break unchanged and Bolton were soon on level terms as Gudjohnsen fired a penalty into the roof of Silvestri’s net after Murphy was adjudged to have caught Darren Pratley inside the area.
United looked to hit back as Cook struck into Lonergan’s arms before Byram twisted and turned his way into the area to tee up Murphy on the edge of the Bolton box, only for the midfielder’s strike to roll agonisingly wide of the post.
A subdued passage of play followed until the 68th-minute mark when the overlapping Gaetano Berardi stormed onto Cook’s flick inside the area but was just unable to get the desired connection on his first-time strike.
Another flowing United move then saw Casper Sloth blaze over at the back post after being picked out by Berardi’s low cross. At the opposite end, Liam Cooper stood firm to block a ferocious goal-bound volley from Gudjohnsen as the game entered the final 15 minutes.
Silvestri then had to be alert to push away a wicked cross from substitute Craig Davies. The game remained firmly in the balance but Lonergan was again there to deny Redfearn’s side re-taking the lead, smothering Byram’s effort after the 21-year-old had darted into the area.
The two sides were taking turns to attack as the game entered three minutes of stoppage time but there proved to be no way through for either as it ended honours even.