Nottingham Forest Under 23s suffered play-off final heartbreak as they lost 2-1 to Bolton Wanderers at The City Ground this evening.
A late second-half goal from substitute Danny Preston would be in vein after first-half goals from Stephen McKenna and Dennis Politic ensured that Bolton were crowned winners of the Professional Development League.
Bolton made a positive start to the contest and they had the first meaningful chance through Jeff King. Space opened up for King who drove an effort goalwards but Forest keeper Liam Bossin was able to parry away.
It didn't take long for The Trotters to open the scoring though when McKenna gave them the lead. McKenna was fed through by King and the former rifled an effort into the bottom left-hand corner to give them an early lead.
The visitors continued to see more of the ball in the opening 15 minutes as The Reds struggled to carve out a real opportunity. Toby Edser was trying to make things happen for his side in the midfield and his through ball for Virgil Gomis sent the striker through on goal, but the offside flag was raised.
The young Reds did come close on 24 minutes after a stunning run forward from Brennan Johnson. The youngster picked up the ball on the left-flank and drove towards goal, skipping past defenders, but James Aspinall in the Bolton goal was equal to his prodded effort. From the rebound, the ball was recycled out to Toby Edser who curled an effort over the bar.
Bolton nearly doubled their lead through Jeff King soon after. King was hauled down by Joe Coveney, who was shown a yellow card, giving the visitors a free-kick in a good position. King took the free-kick and his whipped effort whistled just past the post.
Forest were starting to find their feet and some neat play on the outside of the box eventually saw Alex Iacovitti finding space to shoot, but his shot deflected wide for a corner.
Toby Edser was next to go close for the home side. Edser was tripped 20-yards out from goal but his free-kick edged narrowly wide of the target as they looked to find some momentum. Jake Taylor was then next to be shown a yellow card for a foul on Jeff King, much to The City Ground's displeasure.
With just five minutes remaining of the first half, Bolton came inches away from doubling their advantage. A fine cross met the head of Joe Pritchard who nodded his effort off the post before a goalmouth scramble eventually saw a shot flash wide of the post.
Virgil Gomis then forced the Bolton custodian into a good save as he drove into the area and directed a shot towards goal. But it was a missed chance that would prove costly when Politic scored a second for the visitors. The winger drove at the Forest defence and unleashed a venomous strike which nestled into the bottom left-hand corner, giving his side a 2-0 lead at the break.
Forest began the second half with purpose as they looked to pull a goal back, but they failed to create any clear-cut chances with Bolton remaining resolute, and it was The Trotters who nearly scored again. The lively Jeff King rose high from a corner and powered an effort towards goal, forcing Bossin to push it over the bar.
The ball just wouldn't fall for The Reds in a rather quiet second half with the visitors looking comfortable. Jeff King had yet another long-range effort on goal when he set his sights from 25 yards and drilled an effort at goal, forcing Bossin to push it wide.
But Forest finally grabbed a goal on 77 minutes through substitute Danny Preston. Toby Edser's inch-perfect ball found the head of Preston who flicked his header over the goalkeeper and into the net to pull one back.
The Reds were in the ascendancy following the goal, and Virgil Gomis was inches away from getting on the end of Jayden Richardson's cross to level the scores. At the other end, Bolton nearly sealed the win on 85 minutes when Dennis Politic raced through on goal, but his effort was well stopped by Bossin again.
The post then cruelly denied Forest a goal when Jayen Richardson's header trickled goalwards before eventually bouncing off the post. A couple minutes later Richardson was at it again for the hosts when he danced his way into the area, drilling a low effort at goal which Aspinall just about pushed wide.
Forest failed to get another goal as Bolton were crowned champions of the Professional Development League, with Reds goalkeeper Liam Bossin shown a red card following the full-time whistle having confronted the referee.
It has been a tremendous season for Gareth Holmes's side and one which ultimately ended in defeat but there have been plenty of positives to take from reaching the play-off final.
Forest: Bossin, Ahmedhodzic (Richardson 73'), Iacovitti (Stewart 82'), Taylor, Coveney, Crookes, En-Neyah, Fornah (Preston 62'), Gomis, Edser (c), Johnson
Unused subs: Barnes, Shelvey
Goal: Preston 77'
Bookings: Coveney 25', Taylor 34'
Red card: Bossin 90'
Bolton: Aspinall, Brockbank, Lonsdale, Edwards (c), Mitchell, Pritchard, Politic, Earing, McKenna (Navarro 74'), King, White
Unused subs: Muscatt, Turner, Jones-Griffiths, Morris
Goals: McKenna 6', Politic 44'
Referee: Scott Simpson