Bolton Wanderers 3-2 Nottingham Forest

  • May 06, 2018 | By Chris Mann
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Bolton scored two goals in the final four minutes as they came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest and retain their Championship status on a dramatic final day.

Despite leading through Adam Le Fondre's 67th-minute opener, Wanderers trailed with 11 minutes to play - with goals from Ben Osborn and Jack Colback seemingly putting them on the brink of relegation to League One.

Needing victory to have any chance of survival, hope was restored when David Wheater prodded home his first of the season on 87 minutes, before Aaron Wilbraham was the unlikely hero as he headed home little over 60 seconds later to complete a remarkable turnaround that keeps Phil Parkinson's side in the second tier.

With last weekend's 2-0 defeat at Burton Albion looking as though it may have provided the killer-blow to the Trotters' chances of survival, they began the game with six changes to the side that took to the field at the Pirelli Stadium.

Out went Andrew Taylor, Dorian Dervite, Jon Flanagan, Derik Osede, Craig Noone and Le Fondre, with Antonee Robinson, Mark Little, Josh Vela, Filipe Morais, Wheater and Wilbraham taking their places.

With the action underway, it was the visitors who created the first shooting opportunity as Osborn broke free down the right-hand side before crossing low for Ben Brereton, who somehow sliced his effort wide from close range.

Wanderers' first chance arrived on the quarter-hour, with Little seeing an effort deflect behind, while Wheater came close to scoring from the resulting corner, with Stefanos Kapino tipping his goalbound header onto the post before the ball was hacked clear.

Having missed one gilt-edged chance already, Brereton fluffed his lines once more on 19 minutes, again shooting high and wide when picked out unmarked in a central position.

The host should have broken the deadlock midway through the half, with Morais getting on the end of a cutback from Vela before clipping the outside of the post, moments before the same duo combined once more only for the ball to flash wide of the target.

Wheater and Morais tried again to find a way through without success as the clock ticked towards the half-hour, before neither Wilbraham or Sammy Ameobi made a gamble to get on the end of a near-post flick from Vela.

Wanderers had the ball in the net on 32 minutes. After seeing his initial header come back off the post, Wilbraham reacted quickest to get on the end of a low cross from Robinson, but the referee's assistant ruled out the goal with an offside flag.

A mistake in the Bolton defence almost proved costly three minutes later, with a mix-up in communication providing Joe Lolley with a shot at goal. His effort deflected up and onto the crossbar, leaving goalkeeper Ben Alnwick wrong-footed and in obvious discomfort on the turf.

The home side were awarded a free-kick in the final moments of the half but Morais couldn't keep his effort down and the teams, meaning they went in goalless at the break.

Having failed to recover from the injury picked up in the latter stages of the opening period, Alnwick was replaced by Mark Howard as the players emerged for the start of the second-half. Forest, meanwhile, were unchanged.

It was Bolton who got out of the blocks quickest following the restart, with Darren Pratley firing straight into the arms of Kapino from the edge of the box.

With the game becoming a little flat and Wanderers in desperate need of a goal, Pratley was sacrificed shortly before the hour in favour of the more attacking Le Fondre.

That allowed Wanderers to up the pressure, with Wilbraham and Morais both having efforts, moments before the deadlock was broken.

After a Morais cross had been partially cleared, Henry took aim at goal. His shot was blocked but the ball fell kindly to Le Fondre, who lashed a first-time volley past Kapino to give Bolton a 1-0 lead.

It was to last just three minutes, however, as Osborn was afforded too much time and space on the left-flank and he responded by drilling low and hard into the bottom corner of Howard's goal to make it 1-1.

Vela and Le Fondre both tried to restore Wanderers' lead without success, before the writing looked as though it was on the wall when Colback volleyed in with 11 minutes to play - giving the hosts a mountain to climb.

Wilbraham and Wheater both headed onto the roof of the net inside the final 10 minutes, before the former gave Bolton hope as he latched on to a pass from Le Fondre to slot home an equaliser with three minutes to play.

Then, little over 60 seconds later, the roof was lifted off Macron Stadium. Howard's long clearance was flicked on by Henry. Le Fondre gambled to keep the ball alive before crossing for Wilbraham, who stole in ahead of his marker to stoop low and head home an unlikely winner that secured a 3-2 victory and Wanderers' place in the Championship next season.

With the season all said and done, Parkinson's side finish in 21st position - one place and two points above the relegation zone. Barnsley and Burton Albion, both of whom were beaten away from home, join Sunderland in League One next season.

Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick (Howard 46), Robinson, Beevers, Wheater, Little, Pratley (Le Fondre 59), Henry, Vela, Morais (Noone 77), Ameobi, Wilbraham
Subs Not Used: A Taylor, Karacan, Buckley, Burke
Booked: Pratley, Robinson, Wilbraham
Goals: Le Fondre 67, Wheater 87, Wilbraham 88

Nottingham Forest: Kapino, Darikwa, Hobbs, Fox, Osborn, Bridcutt (Vellios 76), Colback, Watson (Guedioura 76), Lolley, Brereton, Tomlin (Cash 61)
Subs Not Used: Smith, Lichaj, Mancienne, Bouchalakis
Booked: Bridcutt, Fox, Lolley, Darikwa
Goals: Osborn 70, Colback 79

Referee: Scott Duncan
Attendance: 18,289

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
11 Ipswich Town 20 27
12 Cheltenham Town 19 27
13 Bolton Wanderers 20 26
14 Accrington Stanley 19 24
15 Charlton Athletic 20 23
View Full Standings >>


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