THE man who guided Bradford City to two Wembley finals including a promotion in almost five years at the helm, Phil Parkinson, received a mixed reception on his first return to Valley Parade as an opposing manager.
He then had to endure seeing his third-placed Trotters concede a quickfire double to City’s £250,000 signing from Carlisle Charlie Wyke amid a white-hot atmosphere.
But Bolton responded after the break and David Wheater made it 2-1 before Gary Madine headed home a 75th-minute equaliser.
It left City chief Stuart McCall to reflect on an 11th home league draw of the season.
Fifth-placed Bradford made three changes from the side beaten at Fleetwood. Striker Billy Clarke, winger Mark Marshall and right-back Tony McMahon replaced benched trio Jordy Hiwula, Alex Gilliead and Stephen Darby.
Bolton, with captain Jay Spearing serving a two-match ban for reaching 10 bookings, also made three changes to the side that had beaten Rochdale in midweek with Dean Moxey, Liam Trotter and former Bantams loanee Tom Thorpe given starting roles alongside former City winger Filipe Morais, who moved across the Pennines at the start of the month and who received warm applause when his name was read out pre-match.
City kicked off towards the Kop and took just 10 minutes to take the lead. Marshall received the ball inside his own half, sped down the right channel before hitting a strong diagonal pass for Wyke to control with his first touch before firing a low shot across Ben Alnwick, who went down to his left only to see the ball bobble over him into the net.
It got even better for the Bantams as Nicky Law chased a long ball from McMahon into the right corner of the area and lobbed the onrushing Alnwick to leave Wyke a simple tap-in as the ball dropped in front of goal.
Bolton attempted to hit back and Colin doyle did well to push away the ball for a corner after Adam Le Fondre’s strike from outside the area had taken a deflection.
The City goalkeeper also got down to save a scuffed attempt from eight yards from Gary Madine after he had been teed up by strike partner Le Fondre.
Madine also headed over a deep cross from Morais to show the Trotters were far from finished.
However, City got back on the front foot and Marshall could have made it 3-0 before the break only to produce a fresh-air shot 12 yards out.
Left-back James Meredith had the first chance after the break but headed over from six yards from Marshall’s cross.
Parkinson made a double substitution on the hour, James Henry and Viv Solomon-Otabor replacing Moxey and Liam Trotter.
Bolton were soon back in at as Mark Beevers headed down from Henry’s free-kick and fellow central defender Wheater took a swish as the ball bobbled around following Romain Vincelot’s attempted clearance and sliced it beyond Colin Doyle to make it 2-1.
Marshall let loose but was off target before Timothee Dieng was brought on to give City greater aerial power at Clarke’s expense.
Marshall tripped over the ball after McMahon had sprung the offside trap and the missed opportunity proved costly.
Bolton won a free-kick on the right. It was taken short and Henry curled in a delightful cross which an unmarked Madine headed back across Doyle for the equaliser.
Wyke teed up Dieng only for the substitute’s strike to smash against the post before Alex Gilliead replaced Law.
Marshall then limped off to be replaced by Hiwula.
Wyke had the chance to win it in the 87th minute but fired over from eight yards as both central defenders dived in.
The game went into five minutes of stoppage time when Madine headed straight at Doyle and honours ended even for the second time this season.
“Frustrating finale. We need to start defending better and seeing games out,” McCall said.
“We have dominated the first half and should be going in more than 2-0 up. We have probably played the best we have played all season.
“Bolton are going to come into the game, we cannot dominate for 90-odd minutes, but when they do come into the game you have got to stand up and defend.
“We need to learn to toughen up. We need to nail stuff down. But we have got 13 games to go. It is so frustrating because that is our story of the season. But there is no doom and gloom.”