The light sprinkling of stardust applied to Bolton's troubled season by their midweek draw in Munich was a distant memory as they returned to the mundane business of scrapping for Premiership survival yesterday.
Both they and Middlesbrough made it look very mundane indeed with as undistinguished a contest as you could wish to see – or more accurately – wish to avoid. A crowd of 17,624 was Bolton's lowest ever for a Premiership match and the missing supporters were not bad judges.
Boro manager, Gareth Southgate, was guilty of understatement when he confessed: "It wasn't a particularly attractive match to watch, but the team showed the character needed to come to a place like this and get a point."
Southgate gave much of the credit for that to a team-building break in the Lake District spent bridging rivers and climbing rock faces. "You learn to rely on your team-mates to survive and when you come to Bolton that's what's required," he said.
"They've been team-bonding in the Lake District, we've been flying all over Europe trying to get a result against one of the best club sides in the world," said Bolton's Gary Megson, who admitted that with Nicolas Anelka among his injured absentees, his side: "didn't show enough quality to open up a tight defensive unit".
It was indicative of a sterile first half that the highlight came in the form of an optical illusion. Kevin Davies milked a free-kick and Gary Speed's curling left-footer came back off the advertising hoardings into the back of the netting, leaving the majority at the Reebok Stadium wondering why nobody was celebrating.
Gavin McCann won a ball from Luke Young and eventually shot wide and just before half-time Davies fired a shot which went a couple of feet wide of the post.
If that does not sound like much to show for 45 minutes effort, then it was a lot more than Middlesbrough managed. With Jérémie Aliadière alone up front with only sporadic support, they barely mustered a threat.
If anything, the second half failed to live up to the promise of the first and the game was almost an hour old before the next semblance of a chance. Young blocked Davies' shot and from the corner the Bolton striker played the ball back to Ivan Campo, but the midfielder failed to bundle it in at the far post.
Aliadière and Stewart Downing had shots saved when they fired straight at the goalkeeper before Bolton staged something of a cavalry charge in the last few minutes.
Stelios Giannakopoulos, brought on as a substitute, showed a woeful lack of control when one chance rolled to him in the Middlesbrough penalty box and Campo had a header saved comfortably by Mark Schwarzer as the Boro defence was otherwise held together by the assured Chris Riggott.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Gardner, A O'Brien, Meite, Cid; Campo; Guthrie, Nolan, (Giannakopoulos, 63), McCann, Speed (Andranik, 80); Davies. Subs not used: Al Habsi, Braaten, Michalik.
Middlesbrough (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Young, Riggott, Wheater, Taylor (Pogatetz, 29); O'Neil, Cattermole, Boateng, Downing; Sanli (Hutchinson, 67); Aliadière. Subs not used: Turnbull (gk), Lee, Shawky.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).
Booked: Bolton: Nolan, O'Neil. Boro: Wheater.
Man of the match: Riggott
Attendance: 1,7624.Reuse content