There are comebacks and there are comebacks. The one Bolton Wanderers staged at the Reebok Stadium yesterday belongs in the latter category, an extraordinary effort against all the odds by Owen Coyle's side that had Alex McLeish, the Birmingham City manager, reaching for the whisky.
Already leading 1-0 thanks to Roger Johnson's first goal for the club, the visitors looked on course for the most comfortable of wins after Jussi Jaaskelainen pressed the self-destruct button. The veteran of more than 450 appearances for Bolton was sent off for slapping Johnson in the 36th minute after the Birmingham defender had gone in on the keeper.
It was clumsy more than malicious, but triggered an astonishing reaction from Jaaskelainen who should have known better than to lash out. His actions earned him a fourth red card in his 13-year Bolton career and paved the way for Adam Bogdan, the 22-year-old second-choice keeper from Hungary, to make his first appearance at this level.
When Craig Gardner doubled Birmingham's lead in the early stages of the second half, the game looked dead and buried. Even after Kevin Davies, the captain, reduced the deficit from the penalty spot after being fouled by Johnson with 19 minutes remaining, the game still looked beyond Coyle's side. But when substitute Robbie Blake levelled the scored nine minutes from time, Bolton's fans could not believe what they were seeing.
The drama was still not over. In a late twist, Cameron Jerome was presented with a chance to win it for Birmingham but Bogdan saved the day with a tremendous stop with his left leg.
"It feels like a defeat," a disappointed McLeish said. "We're feeling very sore. Their penalty was extremely soft in my opinion, but it's great for Bolton." McLeish is desperate to spend the £9m he has at his disposal before the transfer window shuts tomorrow. However, with Charles N'Zogbia pricing himself out of a move to St Andrew's with his £50,00-a-week wage demand, McLeish is unsure whether he will be able to add to his squad.
"We pushed the boat out to try and get Charles N'Zogbia but we have lost out on a number of players," he added. "The fans need to realise that we are in the market for quality players to improve the side, but the Bank Holiday does not help us and I really don't know if we're going to be able to do any business between now and the deadline on Tuesday."
Coyle said Jaaskelainen was "beside himself" in the dressing room afterwards, despite his side's dramatic comeback. He said: "Jussi knows he made a mistake. He's bitterly disappointed. But I have tremendous belief in Adam and he will now get his chance. We have tried to foster some spirit in the side and hope that was evident in the second half."
Bolton Wanderers 4-4-2: Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Lee, Holden (M Davies, 78), Muamba, Petrov (Bogdan, 37); Elmander (Blake, 66), K Davies. Substitutes not used Taylor, Ricketts, Alonso, O'Brien.
Booked Muamba, K Davies. Sent off Jaaskel'en (36)
Birmingham City 4-5-1: Foster; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson (K Fahey, 76) Gardner, Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden (Derbyshire, 67); Jerome. Substitutes not used Taylor (gk), Murphy, O'Connor, Zigic, Valles.
Booked Johnson, Bowyer, Larsson.Referee K Friend (Leic)
Man of the match K Davies.