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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » MARC ILES' BIG MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 1 Reading 1

MARC ILES' BIG MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 1 Reading 1

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Just as it looked as if Wanderers’ survival chances had taken an irreparable hit, Jack Hobbs came up with a header which just about saves Phil Parkinson’s bacon.

Billed as the most important game since the May miracle against Nottingham Forest, Bolton stuttered apprehensively for the most part and once again looked a side uncomfortable in front of their own fans.

Things did not improve when Parkinson took off youngster Luca Connell to a chorus of boos, only for Reading to take the lead from the penalty spot moments later.

All looked lost until Hobbs rose to force home a Sammy Ameobi cross to salvage a point and spare his manager a savaging.

Parkinson said Connelll had been tiring but the teenager had once again been his side's most productive player. Had Bolton gone on to lose, the crowd would have been quite unforgiving.

Read Phil Parkinson's view on Luca Connell's substitution here.

Reading should definitely have forged ahead after 10 minutes when Sone Aluko got down the right, his cross hooked back into the danger area by Mo Barrow and headed wastefully wide by Nelson Oliveira.

The Royals played a dangerous game at the back, on-loan Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez taking some considerable liberties with the ball at his feet.

Their sheer refusal to clear their lines looked to be Wanderers’ best chance of getting a goal. Each time the Spanish stopper got the ball to his feet there were audible gasps from the scattering of travelling fans high up in the South Stand, a hark back to the days of Jaap Stam.

Connell continued to play a different game. Calmness, composure and even a bit of trickery in the right areas, he lacked the tension in his shoulders that players twice his age were showing around him.

Playing in a deep-lying midfield role he did not have the same opportunities to be more influential around the opposition box as he did in the FA Cup against Bristol City. But regardless, if there were Premier League scouts watching on, he will have ticked some of the right boxes.

Sammy Ameobi also showed up well in the early exchanges, possessing a burst of energy we haven’t seen in recent weeks. His link-up with David Wheater, who had strode Beckenbauer-like from the back four, to bring a save out of Martinez was the undoubted highlight of a nervous first half.

Once again it felt like containment was the primary aim. There was something to admire about the way Parkinson’s side pressed and held their – albeit not the typical demeanour of a home team – but their wastefulness in possession was disappointing.

Parkinson had pleaded with the Bolton faithful to back the team, but wayward passes from Jason Lowe and Gary O’Neil brought about the biggest reactions from the home fans in what looked a sparse crowd. Clearly fans need some incentive to get passionate about Wanderers again.

One genuine moment of quality emerged just before half time as Craig Noone turned brilliantly on the left and arrowed a cross in towards Clayton Donaldson, alas a few inches too far in front, allowing Martinez to tip the ball away.

Otherwise it was a case of Reading patiently passing and probing, picking their spot to attack. Liam Moore had one lumbering header cleared off the line, and Andy Taylor produced an excellent block in front of his own goal to divert a fierce shot from Jonathan Swift over the bar.

Wanderers came out for the second half playing with much more purpose.

O’Neil had a great chance, looping a header from Pawel Olkowski’s cross on to the roof of the net. Connell also arrowed a great left-footed volley at goal, forcing Martinez to scramble and make the save.

Once again it was the youngster Connell taking centre stage. His range of passing, and more importantly its accuracy, just made for refreshing viewing on a night when precious little was easy on the eye.

Martinez was being kept busy as the game opened up. O’Neil had a pot-shot from 20 yards after some good work from Donaldson, who then forced the Spaniard into a fine save with an angled volley.

Remi Matthews had not been forced into any sort of action until an inch-perfect ball from Swift found the pacy Barrow racing through the middle, the Bolton keeper sprinting off his line to spread his body and stifle the danger well.

Reading were starting to regain some rhythm when Parkinson made the decision to bring off Connell for Joe Pritchard. There were echoes of Gary Megson’s decision to replace Ivan Klasnic with Gavin McCann in a 2-2 draw with Hull City that effectively spelled the end of his time at Bolton a decade ago.

It was easy to feel for Pritchard, who deserved his place on the pitch after a bright performance in the cup, but the mood around the stadium transformed instantly.

Not four minutes later, sub McCleary was seemingly tripped by a flailing foot somewhere between Hobbs and Olkowski and Reading were able to take the lead from the spot through debutant Oliveira.

Reading were able to shift back into keep-ball mode. Wanderers looked like a side beaten who no longer wanted to chase.

Then, quite unexpectedly, Ameobi fashioned a good cross from the right met by the head of Hobbs. Martinez got a glove to the ball but it wasn’t enough to stop it hitting the net.

Out of jail, a point does little for Wanderers. But avoiding defeat in such a manner might just mean they live to fight another day.

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