A week after they stalled the charge of Arsenal and Manchester United respectively, West Bromwich and Bolton cancelled one another out in a contest which finally caught fire in the last half-hour. Johan Elmander shot the visitors ahead only for James Morrison to convert an equaliser that was strongly disputed by the Bolton manager Owen Coyle.
Elmander's goal, expertly taken by the Swede from 12 yards following first-time touches from Lee Chung-Yong and Kevin Davies, took his Premier League tally to four, one more than the £8.2m record signing managed all last season. Albion retaliated with 12 minutes remaining when James Morrison headed in Peter Odemwingie's cross, and it took a fine save from Bolton's Jussi Jaaskelainen 60 seconds later to deny Chris Brunt a winner.
Coyle was adamant Odemwingie was offside when he took possession, saying: "The disappointment to me is that he was clearly off. I think Peter Walton is a very good referee, but it wasn't for him to give – it was for his assistant. It's galling when you've put so much into a game, but it shouldn'tdetract from a terrific match."
Roberto Di Matteo admitted his team had not been at their best. "A lot of credit goes to Bolton," the Albion manager said. "They played well and it was tough to break them down. We've still got 31 games to go, but I'm pleased with what we've got. I'm trying to change this club's reputation [from a yo-yo team]." Albion are level on points with third-placed Arsenal with more than a third of the total they won when relegated in 2008-09.
The neater football came from Di Matteo's side. It was telling, however,that the principal threat to Bolton's goal initially came from long-range shots by Brunt. The winger also outjumped ex-Albion defender Paul Robinson – cast as pantomime villain by the home crowd – to enable Odemwingie to cross. Gretar Steinsson cleared as Morrison converged. Bolton were especially dangerous from Martin Petrov's set-pieces. From one early corner, Gary Cahill wasted a free header. Cahill enjoyed similar freedom from another Petrov delivery six minutes after half-time, Nicky Shorey heading off the line.
Moments earlier Scott Carson touched behind Petrov's 15-yard shot. After Elmander's "exquisite finish", as Coyle termed it, Petrov had a chance to make it 2-0 but missed the target when one-on-one with Carson. Unfortunately for Bolton, Morrison was altogether less wasteful.
Referee: Peter Walton
Man of the match: Mulumbu
Match rating: 6/10