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MATCH VERDICT: Bolton 1-1 Fulham

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1 MATCH VERDICT: Bolton 1-1 Fulham on Sun Feb 11 2018, 14:47


IF anyone doubted Wanderers’ survival credentials this season, simply take a look at this.
Faced with the Championship’s in-form side, and handicapped by a poor start to the game, it took no shortage of guts for Phil Parkinson’s team to get back on level terms.
But while Adam Le Fondre will steal headlines for a truly brilliant equaliser, cancelling out Matt Targett’s fourth-minute header, there was a lot more to admire from another Bolton display which illustrated their progress under the most remarkable of circumstances.

Fulham are surely destined to follow Wolves’ coattails towards the Premier League, and the top flight will be a better place for their presence.
The current crop has definite shades of Jean Tigana’s swaggering team who went up as Champions in the year Wanderers returned to the big time under Sam Allardyce.
The West Londoners had won their last five games, their best run since the turn of the millennium, and you would not have backed against a sixth when they capitalised on Wanderers’ early sluggishness to open the scoring.
Ryan Sessegnon’s darting run and cross from the left was nodded back at the far post by Lucas Piazon and guided over the line by on-loan Southampton defender Matt Targett.
Alarm bells were ringing and the first half hadn’t even reached the half-way stage. Wanderers were second to everything and had abandoned the disciplined shape which had helped them beat Bristol City eight days earlier. Fulham might have grabbed a second through Rui Fonte but Ben Alnwick’s sharpness denied him the privilege.
Suddenly, there was a marked shift in the atmosphere.
Wanderers’ fans had been in excellent voice last Friday in front of the Sky TV cameras and had been credited by Parkinson for lifting the team in the second half en route to victory.
Here, the home support showed another aspect of its importance. Fulham’s inexplicable desire to slow a game they were dominating down to a snail’s pace had not been picked up by referee Robert Jones – so when a series of stoppages started to rile the Macron regulars, the energy appeared to spark Bolton’s players into life.

Fuelled by injustice and howling every time a Fulham player hit the deck, the Loughborough official gave the stadium a focus.
Zach Clough, making his first start since returning from Nottingham Forest on loan, buzzed around the Fulham half like he had never been away. After one dipping shot was turned over the bar by Marcus Bettinelli, a better chance was struck straight at the visiting keeper after an excellent through ball from Sammy Ameobi.
The diminutive striker is clearly desperate to get back on the scoresheet but can take solace in the fact he helped inject urgency into the Whites at a stage when the game seemed to be slipping away.
At the back, David Wheater and Mark Beevers had recovered from some early wobbles and were getting to grips with a formidable attack. Dorian Dervite, the third of the defensive triumvirate, hardly put a foot wrong all game and is looking strong.
Wanderers looked to press Fulham at every opportunity, denying them the chance to pass out from the back. Nevertheless, the visitors had just under 70 per cent possession at the break.
Abdoubakar Kamara had a good chance to make it 2-0 immediately after the restart, poking wide from close range – and the let-off seemed to fuel another Bolton resurgence.
Karl Henry got the biggest cheer of the afternoon to that point by refusing to kick the ball back as yet another Fulham player hit the deck and required treatment. The veteran midfielder has been there and got that T-shirt.

Le Fondre replaced Clough just before the hour and looked immediately intent on making his half an hour of the pitch count.
Fans have been desperate to see ‘Alfie’ get more of an opportunity but it was difficult to see how they would get their wish when Gary Madine ruled the roost as Wanderers’ most effective attacking option. Circumstances have now changed since the target man’s departure and Le Fondre looks hungrier than ever to show he deserves a shot.
His equalising goal was a moment of pure magic. Antonee Robinson did well to win the flick-on against Targett and after allowing the ball to take one measured bounce, Le Fondre blasted an angled half-volley back over Bettinelli’s head to spark a primal roar around the Macron.

The striker’s celebration was pure bluster. Had he revealed a shirt saying ‘I told you so’ his message could not have been clearer.
Wanderers fancied their chances of a second and nearly found it when Josh Vela – a bustling ball of energy in the second half – fizzed another fine shot just over the cross bar.
As the game opened up, Fulham also started to click. Wheater’s perfect challenge on Kamara was followed by another from Dervite on the rampaging Sessegnon. Both challenges were cheered with as much gusto as the goal by a home support now completely stoked up.

Stefan Johansen caused hearts to flutter when he danced into the penalty box from the left wing, only to hit the side-netting with his shot. Aleksander Mitrovic also arrowed a late shot past the post, leaving Slavisa Jokanovic insisting in the post-match press conference that his team should have won comfortably.
But from Wanderers’ perspective it was clear evidence they can go toe-to-toe with this division’s best teams, tactically, technically and physically. There is nothing to fear.

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