Bolton 0-0 Arsenal

By Marc HigginsonBBC Sport
Robin van Persie was unlucky not to add to his 25 goals this season
Robin van Persie was unlucky not to add to his 25 goals this season

Arsenal endured a frustrating evening as they were held to a draw by a dogged and determined Bolton.

Even some second-half brilliance from Robin van Persie failed to break the deadlock, with the Dutchman's exquisite lob hitting the bar.

Bolton might have nicked victory, but Mark Davies saw his late penalty appeal turned down when he was sent tumbling by Wojciech Szczesny.

The hosts deserved a point, while the Gunners will rue some poor finishing.

Arsenal draw is catalyst to improve - Owen Coyle

It might have been different if the north London side had converted one of their early chances but they slowly ran out of steam as their efforts went unrewarded.

However, Bolton deserve plenty of credit for the way they stuck at their task and their mini-revival, which has seen them lose only one of their last five top-flight fixtures as they have climbed out of the bottom three, shows no sign of slowing down.

Arsenal dominated the first half, creating some good chances, but their finishing left a lot to be desired.

Van Persie saw an effort cleared off the line by David Wheater, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was a constant menace, shot wide.

However, for all their eye-catching play in the final third, the visitors looked vulnerable at the back with David Ngog twice going close to leaving them red-faced.

First he got in front of Laurent Koscielny and forced a close-range save from Szczesny before, moments later, Wheater's clever flick set the Frenchman free to fire just wide.

The second chance was ruled offside anyway, but the warning signs were there for the Gunners.

They looked like they might heed them when Walcott was given a clear run on goal by Oxlade-Chamberlain's fantastic pass, but the England winger lacked composure when it mattered as his shot was easily deflected wide by Adam Bogdan.

Walcott was enduring a frustrating night, with plenty of positive approach play being spoilt by some poor finishing.

Bolton did a good job of stifling Arsenal's spark in the second half, and had a good chance of their own when Wheater headed wide.

But the inevitable Gunners onslaught finally materialised and they twice went close to breaking the deadlock.

Van Persie was unlucky to see his shot come back off the post following good work down the right from Bacary Sagna, before Oxlade-Chamberlain flashed a shot just over the bar from 30 yards out.

Arsenal were desperate for all three points in their bid to climb back into contention for a top-four finish - something they have enjoyed for the past 15 seasons - and they turned to Thierry Henry with 20 minutes remaining.

Arsenal will fight for top four - Wenger

However, Bolton were growing in confidence and Ngog and Gretar Steinsson caused moments of alarm with half-chances in the penalty area.

Even some Dennis Bergkamp-like magic from compatriot Van Persie could not prevent the stalemate, with the Dutchman's delicate lob from the edge of the area bouncing off the crossbar and, from the resulting scramble, Walcott again failed to find the target.

However, defeat would have been harsh on Bolton, who ended the game on the front foot and were left incensed by referee Chris Foy's decision not to give a spot-kick for Szczesny's challenge on Mark Davies.

It was a close call for Arsenal, who must rediscover winning ways if they are to challenge for a Champions League berth.

As for Bolton, survival suddenly seems achieveable for a side that has been revitalised in recent weeks.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle: "Coming into the game we were in good form but we knew we would have to work very hard against a quality side.

"Adam [Bogdan] made a great save from Walcott and David Ngog had a couple of great chances to score in the first half.

"In the second half the longer the game got the stronger we got and if truth be told we could have won the game late on so there is a lot to be pleased about."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We have gone through a difficult period, we've lost three league games (prior to tonight's match) but we could have won the three as well.

"We have confidence but we have to produce it game by game - for us every game in the championship is a cup final for us now."

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