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U21 Match Report: Wanderers 2-2 West Brom

Tom Molloy

A late Bolton equaliser ended a scintillating game between Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion in what was truly a game of two halves.

The first half was all Bolton with the home team taking the game to the visitors, determined to make up for the disappointing opening day defeat away to Sunderland.

One of Bolton's biggest threats throughout was Tom Youngs, playing just in behind Tom Eaves and the pair linked up in just the 3rd minute. Youngs played Eaves through, but the big striker's first touch took the ball away from him and he could only flash a shot across the face of goal.

Another player to impress was Andy Kellett with his free-kicks were causing the West Brom defence all manner of problems. His first found Cian Bolger but the big defender could only head wide, before a second identical free kick found Youngs. The forward had sprung the offside trap but he really should have done better, sending his volley over the bar from 8 yards out.

For the away side, ex-Bolton Wanderers trialist Morgan Ferrier was playing like he had a point to prove, getting the beating of Tyrone Mears a couple of times and he had West Brom's first notable effort of the half when he let rip from 25 yards but it was well over Jay Lynch's goal.

Lynch, who had an uncharacteristically shaky game, then gave Bolton a fright when he tried being too clever with a back pass. He saw the ball get caught in between his feet but he composed himself just in time and got the ball clear.

Bolton's defence were doing a job at this point, defending as a line and setting the Whites on the counter attack time after time. One particular counter attack saw Sanmi Odelusi play a sumptuous ball to Eaves, who brought it down with his chest and then laid off Youngs. He did well to hit a volley on the turn but could only hit it straight at West Brom's goalkeeper.

Then came the breakthrough that Bolton's play deserved in the 23rd minute. The impressive Kellett made a marauding run down the left-hand side and played a dangerous ball across goal. Tom Eaves got a touch on it and it deflected into the path of Chris Lester, who just had to slide in and get a touch on the ball.

Kellett also continued to be a threat from free-kicks, this time forcing Jack Rose to tip the ball over his bar. West Brom then had a good chance of their own from a free-kick, Kemar Roofe curling the ball around the wall and forcing Lynch into a smart diving save.

Then, from nowhere, came the equaliser. Josh Vela played an innocuous back pass to Lynch, but the usually reliable goalkeeper made a hash of it and Saido Berahino made no mistake when one-on-one.

However, just three minutes later, on the stroke of half time, Bolton had a chance to go 2-1 up. A long ball forward was flicked on excellently by Eaves with Youngs getting on the end of it, but his pace was too much for the Albion keeper leading to him completely taking Youngs out. It was a clear goalscoring opportunity and it's a mystery how Rose stayed on the pitch but Bolton were awarded a penalty which Tom Eaves stepped up to take. The tall forward crashed the ball at the crossbar and shortly after, the referee blew his whistle for half time.

The second half was much quieter but West Brom looked like a different team with Berahino completely running the show. He had the first real effort of the half with a curling shot from 20 yards but Lynch again made a decent save. Then, Mani O'Sullivan let rip from about 30 yards and rattled Lynch's crossbar as well as the Bolton team.

Bolton's front men were starting to tire and it was only a matter of time before West Brom took the lead, which came on the 76 minutes. It was that man Berahino powerfully heading home a left wing cross. The goal seemed to spark some life back into the Wanderers with Odelusi playing like a man possessed, covering every blade of grass.

In the dying minutes came the equaliser which Bolton had thoroughly deserved on the balance of the entire match. Josh Vela, who looked comfortable in his passing throughout but a bit suspect defensively, used his quality to whip in a corner which was headed at goal by substitute Conor Wilkinson. There was a massive goal mouth scramble and Cian Bolger blasted the ball into the roof of the net just to make sure it counted. The Bolton players mostly congratulated Wilkinson though so there was some confusion over who the goal belonged to. Both West Brom and Bolton would ultimately credit Bolger.

That was it and a decent result against a team who made the 'elite' stage of the U21 Premier League last season. It's interesting to note that Tyrone Mears and Tim Ream both started the game. Both players have been linked with loan moves away from the Reebok over the course of this window.