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Bolton 2-2 Fulham Cham 22 1516 - Bolton News

last updated Monday 21st December 2015, 5:17 PM

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Marc Iles at The Bolton News

Bolton (0) 2-2 (1) Fulham

WHATEVER unsavoury matters are going on at Wanderers right now, financial and otherwise, there is one Messi the club could not do without.

With a new disaster seeming to crop up every day at the Macron of late, Zach Clough's reappearance in the first team after three months out injured has been like a breath of fresh air.

Re-focussed and re-energised, the diminutive youngster has added a spark to the relegation fight that was almost inconceivable after the dismal defeat against Cardiff City.

Two goals against Fulham, his first since returning from a dislocated shoulder, looked like sealing a second win of the season.

But Ross McCormack's late free kick earned the managerless Londoners a point few could argue they did not deserve on balance of play.

Clough struggled under the weight of expectation on returning from his first shoulder operation in August but has used his more recent spell on the sidelines wisely.

He appears more direct, content to play further up the pitch and - most crucially for his club in their current situation - much more of a goal threat.

Whether Wanderers fans like it or not the 20-year-old is in the shop window for the next six weeks and it would be a huge surprise if at least one Premier League club does not come calling.

How odd to think that a year ago the youngster had not even cut his first-team teeth?

With Clough in the side and scoring goals, Wanderers appear to have a chance of climbing out of the hole they dug themselves.

Others are responding to his presence and we are starting to see a little more consistency from players who looked like they would rather be anywhere else just a couple of weeks ago.

Mark Davies came alive in the second half to help his side overturn the lead given to Fulham by on-loan Everton winger Luke Garbutt.

It had been a depressingly familiar story for the first 45 minutes as Davies and Co huffed, puffed but failed to blow down the Cottagers.

Once again they were undone by a defensive error - Prince-Desire Gouano getting himself in an unnecessary mix up before losing out to McCormack, who laid off for Garbutt to finish neatly from the edge of the box.

Dean Moxey nearly repeated the trick a few moments later, gifting a chance wasted by Mousa Dembele.

Fulham were all of a sudden swarming, and Alex Kacaniklic brushed the bar with another angled effort.

Wanderers had played in patches, young defender Rob Holding showing some deftness in the opposite penalty area with a good effort blocked and Jay Spearing also going close.

There had been some concern within the club that an historically poorly-attended weekend of football, coupled with a traditionally small away following, could make this a rather soulless experience. It was nothing of the sort.

Though frustrated, the home fans stuck with the team through a barren first half and got their just rewards after the break.

Kacaniklic should have sealed the points after ploughing straight through the middle of the Whites' defence only to be denied by a smart save from Ben Amos.

And it was to the keeper that Neil Lennon directed his applause a few moments later when Davies combined with Clough for the equaliser.

It was a moment of splendid football from two players who have always shown a natural symbiosis on the pitch, Davies scurrying into the penalty area before releasing a delayed pass for Clough to bury neatly into Andy Lonergan's left-hand post.

Belief spread around the stadium and when Feeney produced his best cross all season for Clough to bundle home a second, it felt like a landmark moment in Wanderers' fight against relegation.

A couple of minutes earlier Lennon had brought off Spearing for Neil Danns - a decision that puzzled a few considering the ex-Liverpool man had been leading the fight-back impressively.

But it was the next substitution that really raised eyebrows, Emile Heskey brought on for Clough, who admittedly looked to have run his race.

It was Heskey who conceded the free kick 25 yards out, despatched emphatically by McCormack to save a point.

Questions have also been asked of Amos's goalkeeping - but even then both sides passed up a chance to win the game.

Feeney missed inexplicably at the far post after getting on the end of Moxey's deep cross then McCormack rattled the bar with an angled strike deep into stoppage time.

Though disappointment was evident at the final whistle there was an appreciation from those inside the stadium that the performance had at least been up to scratch.

A few more of the standard shown at Charlton and on Saturday and League One might not be such a foregone conclusion.

So much hinges on Clough. If he can continue to provide a regular source of goals then the survival fight is entirely possible, regardless of what is going on off the field.

But with each strike comes an extra bit of attention and potentially a few more pennies on the price tag. And as we all know, it's money that talks at the Macron right now.

Staying up will also rely on Wanderers rediscovering how to win games - or at least seeing them out, as they should have done against Fulham.

Lennon should shoulder his portion of the blame as his substitutions once again came under scrutiny in the last 20 minutes.

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