THE PRE-MATCH billing failed to live up to the hype as Bolton Wanderers and Bradford City played out a pretty tame goalless stalemate - on a low-key reunion day for the visitors with ex-Bantams manager Phil Parkinson.
It was City’s fifth league draw on the spin, a sequence that last occurred a quarter of a century ago, but while last weekend’s point against Bristol Rovers was somewhat frustrating, a share of the spoils at a divisional high-flier was rather more useful with their unbeaten seasonal league record also remaining intact.
Granted, Bradford, backed by a large band of travelling followers who generated nearly all of the Roses atmosphere, lacked a cutting edge to open up Bolton’s rearguard.
But they also restricted Parkinson’s Bolton to only sporadic moments of threat on an afternoon when the contrast in playing styles was all too obvious, with the hosts playing a pressure-based game akin to the traditions of Parkinson and City adopting a patient and probing passing game.
City made one change and it was a significant one, with Sheffield United loanee Marc McNulty handed his first start in the claret and amber in place of James Hanson, who sat out proceedings due to a calf injury.
A welcome sight on the teamsheet for visiting supporters was the inclusion of fit-again Rory McArdle on the bench, with Tony McMahon missing out due to a thigh problem.
Aside from the presence of Parkinson and his former Bradford coaching staff in the home dug-out, there were also several ex-City links in the home squad, most notably Jamie Proctor, who spent the second half of last season at Valley Parade and lined up in the frontline for the hosts.
Also on the bench were former Bradford loanees Tom Thorpe and Andrew Taylor.
City, visiting their quarter of Lancashire for the first time since Boxing Day 1998 and calling in at the Macron Stadium for just the second time in its history, survived an early scare from the off, with Bolton signalling their intent by going close to an opener.
Just over 20 seconds were on the clock when the recalled Jay Spearing saw his piledriver beaten away by Colin Doyle with Nathianel Knight-Percival then making a key clearing header after a cross was played back into the box to deny Proctor.
Despite the blistering start from Bolton, chances were at a premium, with the hosts’ other chief threatening moment coming on 27 minutes when the ball found its way to Sammy Ameobi in a good position on the left, but his goalbound low shot was blocked in the nick of time.
David Wheater nodded wide from James Henry’s resultant corner.
City, backed by a noisy 4,388 travelling support, displayed the purer footballing traits, but failed to significantly trouble the Wanderers backline.
At the other end, City only produced half chances, with a Mark Marshall shot easily held by Mark Howard and Timothee Dieng ballooning an effort over, with some decent approach play invariably breaking down in the final third for the visitors.
A heated moment arrived on 37 minutes when Josh Vela became the second home player to be cautioned for a foul on Josh Cullen, with Spearing also penalised for a heavy challenge on the City loanee earlier in proceedings.
Bolton forced some quick-fire corners on the restart, with the set-piece route looking their most likely route of success, but Bradford held firm.
A Dean Moxey error almost yielded a clear sight of goal for McNulty, but he couldn’t engineer enough space to shoot and the home defence cleared in the nick of time.
Try as they might, City struggled to prise open Bolton’s rearguard, with it proving a clear game of patience for McCall’s men, attacking their massed ranks of followers in the away end.
It was increasingly looking like one goal either way would settle the issue, but play by and large was scrappy with the hosts picking up their third caution when Proctor was booked for a foul on Knight-Percival.
A rare moment of home incursion from open play saw James Henry fire not too far over after good work by Proctor, with City making a change, with McNulty, who ploughed a lone furrow up front, replaced by the pacy Jordy Hiwula.
The Huddersfield loanee was presented with a half-decent chance to break the deadlock midway through the half after being supplied by James Meredith, with his low daisycutter gathered by Howard at the second attempt.
A rare cameo of action then saw chances at both ends, with Proctor’s cute backheel first setting up substitute Zach Clough, whose swerving shot flashed agonisingly wide before Mark Marshall teed up Dieng at the other end, but his curling effort lacked power and precision and was comfortably held by Howard.
Marshall was booked for simulation in the final ten minutes after tumbling in the box under pressure from Wheater, with the last chance seeing Hiwula glance a header comfortably off target following Marshall’s centre.
Bolton Wanderers: Howard; Buxton, Wheater, Beevers, Moxey; Henry (C Taylor 80), Vela, Spearing, Trotter (Thorpe 69); Proctor, Ameobi (Clough 70). Substitutes unused: Alnwick, Derik, A Taylor.
Bradford City: Doyle; Darby, Vincelot, Knight-Percival, Meredith; Marshall, Cullen, Dieng, Law; B Clarke, McNulty (Hiwula 62). Substitutes unused: Sattelmaier, Vuckic, Morais, McArdle, Devine, Kilgallon.
Referee: M Heywood (Cheshire).
Attendance: 17,486 (4,388 Bradford City supporters).
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