Match report: Bolton Wanderers 2 Ipswich Town 2 – Last-gasp penalty denies Blues the perfect night

Stephen Dobbie scores Bolton's equaliser

Stephen Dobbie scores Bolton's equaliser - Credit: Phill Heywood

Stephen Dobbie’s stoppage-time penalty denied Ipswich Town all three points and the chance to move back into the Championship play-off places at rock-bottom Bolton Wanderers tonight.

08/03/2016 Sky Bet League Championship BoltonWanderers v Ipswich Town
Luke Chambers appeals the pena

08/03/2016 Sky Bet League Championship BoltonWanderers v Ipswich Town Luke Chambers appeals the penalty decision - Credit: Phill Heywood

Kevin Bru’s sensational first-half strike and Christophe Berra’s first goal of the season, netted in the 72nd minute, looked to have put Mick McCarthy’s men in full control.

The Trotters pulled a goal back within less than a minute though, via Lawrie Wilson’s rifled effort, and substitute Dobbie then converted from the spot in the sixth and final minute of added time after Ainsley Maitland-Niles had tripped Wellington Silva in the box. You can’t say the hosts didn’t deserve it after showing attacking intent throughout.

With many of their promotion rivals losing it looked as though Town would enjoy a perfect night, but instead they left frustrated – and still a point adrift of the top-six – ahead of Saturday’s trip to Cardiff.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy made one change to the team which had lined up for the 1-0 home win over Nottingham Forest three days earlier. Jonathan Douglas – fit again after suffering a cut to his foot at Huddersfield – replaced Luke Hyam in midfield, the later, who only returned from a long-term injury at the end of 2015, perhaps rested with Saturday’s game at top-six rivals Cardiff in mind.

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McCarthy had said in the build-up that he feared Bolton, 10 points adrift of safety, may begin to play with the freedom of a team with nothing to lose.

Whether it was that, talk of an impending takeover led by former fans’ favourite Dean Holdsworth or a touching pre-match tribute to those who lost their lives in the Burnden Park disaster of 1946, Neil Lennon’s men burst out of the blocks with a tempo belying their league position.

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On the front foot from the first whistle, the Trotters created a golden opening in the third minute when Liam Feeney burst to the by-line and cut the ball back only to see Darren Pratley fire over from a decent position.

The one-way traffic continued and, in the sixth minute, midfielder Mark Davies drive forwards from deep, drifted past Christophe Berra far too easily on the edge of the box only to shoot straight at Bartosz Bialkowski.

Bolton’s formation – Jay Spearing sitting deep in midfield, Liam Trotter, Davies and Pratley the narrow trio in the middle and Liam Feeney just off Zach Clough – continued to cause Town problems.

Ex-Blues man Trotter drifted into the channel and picked out Clough in the 11th minute, the diminutive front man lifting his shot over the bar.

And then, following a rapid break from a well-defended Town corner, Clough went down dramatically over Kevin Foley’s out-stretched leg in the box. Ipswich players claimed a dive, the referee awarded a corner.

Town had seen little of the ball, but they had their first sniff at goal in the 19th minute when Freddie Sears’ swerving long-range effort was beaten away by keeper Paul Rachubka and hacked away by Derik Osede as Brett Pitman closed in on the loose ball.

You sensed Ipswich were just beginning to settle and, in the 24th minute, they broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion. Ben Pringle’s corner was flicked on by Luke Chambers and then stabbed backwards by Berra in the direction of the deep-lying Bru. The Frenchman put his foot through the ball first time, his effort curling in off the underside of the crossbar with pace. It was a breathtaking strike from a player who had been substituted at the break with sickness just three days earlier.

A goal like that could have sucked the life out of a Bolton, but they responded well and ended the half on the front foot again. Indeed, Ipswich were lucky to reach the break still ahead.

In the 37th minute, Davies twisted and turned past Berra and delivered a low ball into the six-yard box. It looked like Clough would have the simple chance of converting on the goalline, but somehow he didn’t make a good connection and the ball ended up going behind for a corner.

A minute later, Bialkowski produced a superb double stop. When Dean Moxey’s low shot came through the crowd the Polish custodian was unsighted, but he still managed to save with his legs and, more impressively, get to his feet in time to make a reaction stop from Osede’s well-struck rebound attempt. Town’s keeper must surely be a contender for Championship Player of the Month given his outstanding form since returning to the team.

Ipswich were wobbling, but two injury stoppages – for Pringle and Bru – took the sting out of the home team’s momentum. Both players ended up carrying on, much to the ire of the Bolton fans.

Bru had gone down clutching his leg moments before the interval, after a poorly-timed lunging challenge, and he lasted just six minutes of the second half before being replaced by Luke Varney.

Bolton continued to attack with numbers and it required fine blocks in the box from Berra and Foley. Ipswich’s game plan, it was clear, was to stay organised and look to counter when possible.

When Clough ran into traffic inside the Ipswich area the first few shouts of frustration came from the home fans. The Bolton striker had tried too much instead of playing a pass right to the unmarked Lawrie Wilson.

Home boss Lennon brought on striker Gary Madine for the luckless Trotter in an attempt to give his team a second wind, while McCarthy took off midfielders Foley and Pringle, replacing them with Hyam and Maitland-Niles.

Town scored what looked like it would be a killer second in the 72nd minute when Maitland-Niles’ deep free-kick from the left found its way into the inside of the far side-netting. Berra wheeled away claiming the slightest of touches in the six-yard box.

Less than a minute later, Bolton pulled one back though. After Bialkowski produced a flying punch to get away a dangerous Madine flick-on, advanced right-back Wilson smashed a fine strike into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Buoyed by the goal, Bolton could have drawn level in the 78th minute. Madine’s cross picked out Clough in the six-yard box, but the front man headed down into the ground and Bialkowski collected the ball comfortably. At the other end, after Varney had helped on a deep Maitland-Niles delivery, Tommy Smith put a stooping header just past the post.

There were cheers from the Bolton fans when Lennon introduced Wellington in the 91st minute and he made an immediate impact. Within seconds he had been booked for a dive in the area, but another jinking run was rewarded when he was tripped clumsily by Maitland-Niles at the death. Dobbie converted coolly to level things up. It was the least Bolton deserved.

BOLTON WDRS (4-1-3-1-1): Rachubka; Wilson, Derik, Holding, Moxey; Spearing; Pratley (cpt) (Wellington 90+1), Davies, Trotter (Madine 67); Feeney; Clough (Dobbie 84).

Unused subs: Campbell, Finney, Danns, Wollery.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Bru (Varney 51), Foley (Hyam 68), Douglas, Pringle (Maitland-Niles 70); Pitman, Sears.

Unused subs: Gerken, Digby, Tabb, Toure.

Attendance: 12,681 (503 away)

Referee: Mark Haywood

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