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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » MARC ILES' BIG-MATCH VERDICT: Burton 2 Wanderers 2

MARC ILES' BIG-MATCH VERDICT: Burton 2 Wanderers 2

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Wanderers have been called plenty of names away from home this season – but at Burton, they were all-white.

After two stoic displays against Accrington and Wimbledon, this was much easier on the eye.

And though Bolton were twice pegged back after going ahead through Ryan Delaney and Ethan Hamilton, this time there was plenty to admire in an attacking sense too.

Burton had won all four previous meetings between the two clubs, so this point was a first.

And the home side had to work hard for what they got, twice levelling through Jamie Murphy.

Neither Jason Lowe nor Daryl Murphy passed lunchtime fitness tests, which left Hill in the familiar position of having to tweak his game-plan on the day.

Josh Emmanuel slotted in for Lowe at right-back but Bryan – whose return was somewhat surprising given he had been suffering with a hamstring issue – moved into holding midfield, leaving Ali Crawford to push further forward in support of lone striker Joe Dodoo.

Played in an almost funereal atmosphere, the first half proved to be perhaps the most entertaining 45 minutes of football Bolton have played on their travels this season.

They have looked vulnerable away from the UniBol and there were some concerns early on that without the muscular presence of Murphy up top, there would not be a sufficient platform to build in attack.

Thankfully, Crawford felt his way into the game quickly.

Burton had a few half-chances as Wanderers settled early on, including a John Brayford header which really should have tested Remi Matthews’ goal.

But by the 20th minute they were in the rare position of leading 1-0 as Crawford’s whipped cross was plundered home by Delaney for his first goal for the club.

It has been a terrace bugbear this season that Bolton have failed to be a threat at set pieces, yet Delaney’s willingness to attack the ball is reminiscent of David Wheater in his free-scoring League One days.

Bryan could have doubled the lead when Crawford’s free kick fell nicely for him 10 yards out – his angled cross-shot bouncing off a series of legs before being hacked clear by Edwards.

Bolton’s lead lasted just eight minutes, and the Burton goal, like so many others in the last seven months, had an air of self-sacrifice about it.

Nsiala had put his side under some pressure with a heavy back-pass to Matthews which ended up going behind for a corner.

And as Hill screamed in vain for his striker Dodoo to help out his goalkeeper on the line, Matthews’ path was blocked and Murphy was able to nod the ball home from close range.

At that stage, there was a sense of normal service resumed. Burton started to press in search of a second goal and anyone who has followed the Whites on their travels in the last few years could predict which way this was going to go. Only it didn’t.

Just 10 minutes later, and to the apparent surprise of the travelling fans, Wanderers were back in the lead.

Crawford, who had been off-the-boil on a bumpy pitch at Wimbledon, showed class as he turned 40 yards out and drove at the heart of the Burton defence, playing a perfectly-timed pass in for Hamilton.

The United loanee, in turn, held his nerve to slot his shot past Ben Garratt.

Into the second half, Bolton’s menace factor was rising with every set piece. Nsiala looked hungry to get on the end of something – and Hamilton was invariably first to the loose balls on the edge of the box, sending a couple of thunderous efforts narrowly wide of goal.

Dodoo should definitely have made it three after Crawford picked him out with a dangerous cross from the right – but giving Jake Buxton some credit, he did everything he could to put the Whites striker off.

Moments later, Politic had another foray into visitors’ territory but chose to try and cut inside for a shot rather than play a ball into the box for either Dodoo or Crawford. Decision-making again proved the winger’s downfall after some impressive build-up.

Wanderers paid for their profligacy as Burton drew level again with the best attacking move of the game – Joe Powell and Reece Hutchinson combining on the left edge of the area for Murphy to power home his second.

But once again Hill will have been pleased that not a head went down. Chances came and went at both ends but the best fell to Bolton, and inevitably Crawford.

Dodoo turned brilliantly in the box and when his shot was blocked by the keeper’s legs it fell nicely to the Scot – his shot headed off the line by Hutchinson.

It proved Crawford’s last act. Substituted for the fresh legs of Ronan Darcy, Wanderers didn’t quite look the same attacking threat from there on in.

Burton could have stolen it at the death. Substitute Scott Fraser swept a shot inches wide in the last minute of the game – but defeat on this occasion would have been harsh in the extreme for Wanderers.

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