Crystal Palace were held to a replay against League One Bolton as Sam Allardyce’s return to his “favourite club” resulted in a 0-0 FA Cup third round draw.
Allardyce is still looking for his first victory with the Eagles very much second best and looking bereft of confidence at the Macron Stadium.
This was no warm welcome back for the ex-Trotters boss, who oversaw Bolton’s best period in recent memory during a seven-and-a half-year spell, as Phil Parkinson’s team did most of the running and created the majority of chances.
The last thing the League One high-fliers wanted was a midweek replay in south-east London as they aim to work their way back to a position they would hope is much closer to where Allardyce left them in 2007 when, incredibly, they were sixth in the Premier League.
On the basis of this evidence against top-flight opposition the upward curve Parkinson has got them back on is likely to continue, although whether they ever reach such lofty heights again is debatable.
Allardyce is more concerned with keeping his side in the Premier League but a lack of goals – they have scored just two in four matches since he took over from Alan Pardew – is proving a difficult issue to resolve.
With Christian Benteke injured and Wilfried Zaha at the African Nations Cup the Eagles boss gave a debut to on-loan Chelsea striker Loic Remy, who had not featured since April because of injury, and was one of seven changes from the Premier League defeat to Swansea.
Unsurprisingly after nine months out he lacked match sharpness, evidenced by the number of offside flags raised in his direction, but once he got into a rhythm he created Palace’s best openings, testing Ben Alnwick low down at either post while also hitting the base of the goalkeeper’s left-hand upright.
How Allardyce must have wished the chance Mathieu Flamini ballooned over the crossbar on the half-hour had fallen to Remy, who was substituted at half-time, or anyone other than the former Arsenal midfielder for that matter.
But they were fleeting chances – Joe Ledley’s second-half glancing header and substitute Yohan Cabaye’s blocked volley apart – as Bolton had far the better opportunities.
Man of the match James Henry twice forced saves out of Julian Speroni, setting a new Palace record of 389 appearances for a goalkeeper, before he and Gary Madine wasted free headers and Carlos Vela’s volley was blocked by Damien Delaney as the hosts dominated the opening 20 minutes.
In the second half Henry twice went close, once from close range and then from distance, Vela headed against a post while Madine had a penalty claim waved away as Palace did just enough to take the tie back to Selhurst Park.