Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Gillingham

  • October 23, 2021 | By Chris Mann
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Bolton left it late to salvage a point against Gillingham, recovering from a 2-0 deficit with four minutes to play to draw 2-2 at the University of Bolton Stadium.

Gillingham took the lead with just 11 minutes on the clock as John Akinde prodded home a cross from close range, while Kyle Dempsey doubled the advantage three minutes later with a snapshot from the edge of the box.

The visitors had chances to extend their lead, hitting the crossbar shortly before the break and being wasteful in a one-on-one situation soon after the restart, but Wanderers rallied in the final 20 minutes and could have got themselves back in the game before they actually did.

Oladapo Afolayan netted his 8th of the campaign with four minutes remaining, curling home from just outside the box, before Kieran Lee slotted in from 12 yards in the first of five added minutes for stoppages.

Bolton looked the more likely winners in the closing stages and perhaps would have sealed all three points had there been a little more time added, but Ian Evatt's side will be delighted with a point that had earlier looked massively out of reach.

Still reeling from Tuesday's humiliation at Plymouth Argyle and the departure of club captain Antoni Sarcevic on Friday afternoon, Evatt put together a team which included four changes from that midweek loss at Home Park.

Ricardo Santos returned from suspension to replace Alex Baptiste in central defence, while Declan John, Elias Kachunga and Eoin Doyle took to the field ahead of Liam Gordon, Harry Brockbank and Amadou Bakayoko.

Bolton started brightly and had their first sight of goal inside eight minutes, with Afolayan breaking free in midfield before firing a yard or so wide of Jamie Cumming's right-hand post.

Then, against the run of play, Gillingham broke the deadlock. Pouncing on a mistake on halfway from MJ Williams, Danny Lloyd raced clear down the left-hand side and crossed for Akinde, who got in ahead of the aforementioned Santos to prod in from close range.

It was 2-0 just three minutes later as Wanderers failed to deal with a long-throw into the box, where a half-clearance fell kindly at the feet of Dempsey, who lashed in past the despairing dive of Joel Dixon.

The hosts desperately looked for route back into the game, with Afolayan seeing an effort deflect behind on 18 minutes, shortly before George Johnston connected with a corner but could only head into the waiting gloves of Cumming.

Vadaine Oliver then headed into the arms of Dixon from a set-piece at the other end, before Jack Tucker nodded against the crossbar as he got on the end of a corner from Dempsey.

Bolton were awarded a free-kick when Afolayan was felled by Akinde five minutes before the break, from which Josh Sheehan's deflected attempt was tipped behind by the Gills goalkeeper.

Trailing at the interval, the Trotters returned with one change at the start of the second period as Will Aimson made his league debut for the club in place of the injured Johnston.

Individual errors have proven costly for Bolton in recent weeks and the game should have been beyond doubt within three minutes of the restart, as Oliver capitalised on a poor ball to round Dixon before scuffing his shot into the side-netting.

Dixon was on hand to deny Danny Lloyd on 52 minutes, moments before he was required to make two outstanding saves in quick succession - denying Oliver on both occasions, while Lloyd couldn't capitalise from the follow-up.

The hosts suddenly burst into gear with 20 minutes to play, with a combination of substitutions and positional changes appearing to work to their advantage.

Afolayan had moved in a central role in support of Doyle and forced Cumming into a save from 20 yards, shortly before Wanderers squandered a superb chance to deduce their deficit as Doyle's flick from a corner was inexplicably put over by Williams from almost under the Gillingham crossbar.

Backed by their supporters, Bolton continued to push forward as Elias Kachunga's drive from the edge of the box was parried away by Cumming, moments before the Gills goalkeeper was at full stretch to push a goalbound shot from Doyle behind for a corner.

Santos lashed wide as he was picked out at the far post with five minutes to play, but Wanderers did have the ball in the net 60 seconds later as Afolayan received possesion just outside the area before bending a delightful effort into the corner to make it 2-1.

Wanderers then managed to get themselves back on level terms as John found space deep in opposition territory and cut the ball back for Lee, who expertly guided it into the net to spark a huge sigh of relief amongst the home fans.

Afolayan fizzed a strike narrowly over the top in the dying stages as Bolton were made to settle for a point that had looked beyond them less than 10 minutes previous.

Evatt will be hoping their late comeback will renew confidence in a squad ahead of next Saturday's trip to Portsmouth, with Wanderers looking to get back on track after four games without a win.

Bolton Wanderers: Dixon, John, Johnston (Aimson 45), Santos, Isgrove, Lee, Williams, Afolayan, Sheehan (Bakayoko 53), Kachunga (Delfouneso 83), Doyle
Subs Not Used: Gilks, Brockbank, Thomason, Gordon
Booked: Afolayan
Goals: Afolayan 86, Lee 90+1

Gillingham: Cumming, Jackson, Ehmer, Bennett, McKenzie, Tucker, Dempsey, O'Keefe, Lloyd-McGoldrick (Sithole 90+2), Oliver, Akinde (Adshead 87)
Subs Not Used: Chapman, Kelman, Lee, Reeves, Lintott
Booked: Dempsey, Tucker, O'Keefe
Goals: Akinde 11, Dempsey 14

Referee: Ben Toner
Attendance: 13,807

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
1 Accrington Stanley 0 0
2 Barnsley 0 0
3 Bolton Wanderers 0 0
4 Bristol Rovers 0 0
5 Burton Albion 0 0
View Full Standings >>


Who is Bolton's 2021/22 Player of the Year?
32.58% Oladapo Afolayan
30.96% Gethin Jones
21.72% Ricardo Almeida Santos
5.51% Declan John
4.05% Kieran Lee
3.08% MJ Williams
1.78% Joel Dixon
0.32% George Johnston