Nottingham Forest had to settle for a draw after an end-to-end encounter at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium this afternoon.The Reds had taken a second-half lead courtesy of the in-form Jamie Paterson, but Matt Mills nodded home from a free-kick with 15 minutes to play to earn the home side a share of the spoils.
Billy Davies made one change to the side which beat West Ham 5-0 in the FA Cup last Sunday. Eric Lichaj had been struggling with a niggle in the run up to the match and was left out of the squad altogether, making way for Dan Harding.
Long-term absentee Danny Collins made the bench, as did Darius Henderson and Sunderland loanee David Vaughan.
Paterson was handed his third successive start and almost picked up an assist on four minutes. He drifted into space in Wanderers’ area and received the ball from Gonzalo Jara. Paterson took it across the edge of the box before laying off for Andy Reid, but the Irishman didn’t catch his effort cleanly and could only watch the ball bobble harmlessly wide.
The hosts responded through Mark Davies, who saw his curling effort pushed away by Karl Darlow. Bolton kept it alive but Neil Danns could only sweep the ball over from the edge of the area.
Jay Spearing saw his effort deflected out for a corner a minute later, before The Reds had their first clear-cut chance of the afternoon.
Reid threaded a superb through ball for Halford to latch onto in the area. The front man rode a challenge but was pushed wide in the process. Andy Lonergan spread himself to block Halford’s shot and the hosts cleared the danger.
It was a fairly routine stop for Lonergan, but he was forced to produce something much more spectacular moments later.
Forest worked a short corner from left to right and eventually the ball found its way to Paterson in space. Last weekend’s hat-trick hero lofted the ball into the middle, where Jamaal Lascelles produced an outstanding leap to power a headed effort towards goal. Lonergan dived acrobatically to his right to pluck it away from the top corner.
The visitors were looking the better side but, after a patient spell of passing on 18 minutes resulted in Abdoun drilling wide from 22 yards, Bolton went close through David Ngog. The former Liverpool striker received the ball in the area, turned quickly and fired at goal. Jack Hobbs managed to take the sting out of the effort and Darlow held onto the ball.
Ngog’s strike partner Jermaine Beckford was next to threaten, spinning away from Lascelles and back-heeling the ball into Forest’s box. Davies and Chung-Yong Lee raced to get on the end of it and the South Korean was the winner. He couldn’t claim his prize, however, firing into the side-netting from six yards. Beckford appeared to sustain an injury in the build-up and was replaced by Andre Moritz during the subsequent stoppage.
The hosts kept up their momentum as Ngog saw his shot deflect onto the roof of the net, before Halford headed Abdoun’s cross over the bar under pressure.
Bolton claimed the final chance of the opening period, albeit a half one. Darlow comfortably held onto Ngog’s header from Tim Ream’s cross.
Simon Cox replaced Abdoun at the break, and two minutes later the Republic of Ireland international was celebrating with his teammates.
Paterson showed terrific pace to latch onto a through ball before dinking the ball beautifully out of Lonergan’s reach in front of over 2,000 jubilant Forest fans.
The Reds had started the second half much brighter than their opponents and on 55 minutes could have doubled their lead. Henri Lansbury’s corner was whipped in with menace and for a moment the onrushing Lascelles looked certain to score. The defender failed to make significant contact, however, and the chance was gone.
Forest were forced into their first change of the afternoon when Hobbs limped off for Collins just before the hour. And it wasn’t until the 72nd minute that Wanderers tested the visitors' rehashed back line. Lee wriggled into the area and the ball squirmed to Ngog. Lascelles made a crucial block and the ball found its way safely to Darlow.
There was nothing the keeper could do with quarter of an hour to play, however. Moritz’s free-kick from the left was superb and Mills was first to it, glancing the ball across Darlow and into the far corner of the net.
A Forest change followed, Henderson replacing Jara. Halford reverted to right back.
Buoyed by the equaliser, Wanderers were in the ascendancy. Mortiz’s jinking run into the area looked certain to end with a goal but the Brazilian was eventually blocked off by a resilient Reds defence.
The visitors worked their way back into the match, however, and went agonisingly close twice in quick succession as the game neared its conclusion. Henderson struck the post with a well-hit left-footed effort and the rebound found its way to Reid. The midfielder’s shot looked destined for the bottom corner but Londergan did brilliantly to dive across and smother the ball.
Six minutes of added time were indicated shortly after Mills had drawn a good save from Darlow at the keeper’s near post.
In the third added minute, Paterson showed great feet near the by line before cutting in and forcing Lonergan to turn the ball behind. Nothing came of the corner and the game ended 1-1.
Forest: Darlow, Jara (Henderson 77'), Lascelles, Hobbs (Collins 59'), Harding, Moussi, Lansbury, Paterson, Reid (c), Abdoun (Cox 46'), Halford
Subs not used: De Vries, Vaughan, Mackie, Derbyshire
Scorer: Paterson 47'
Bookings: Lansbury 35', Halford 72', Reid 77', Henderson 90'
Bolton: Lonergan, Baptiste, Mills, Knight, Ream, Spearing (c), Danns, M Davies, Lee, Ngog, Beckford (Moritz 30')
Subs not used: Lee-Barrett, Medo, Pratley, White, Eagles, Bolger
Scorer: Mills 75'
Bookings: Mills 54', Ngog 64'
Referee: Michael Naylor