THEY say a point on the road is always a good one, so why then is it difficult to shake the notion that failure to beat Millwall outright was self-inflicted?

Perhaps only because we had seen Phil Parkinson’s side in full flow for the first time since the summer did the nervous, fragmented football of the second half appear quite so unnerving.

Right off the pages of London tale Jekyll and Hyde, this exercise in duality showed Bolton at their very best, and very worst.

Mark Beevers’ first-half header ended a 378-minute wait for a goal which was ample reward for some enterprising and thoroughly enjoyable play early in the game. Parkinson had set his side up in the same 4-3-3 formation which tore into West Brom and Reading in August and the team bore little resemblance to the one which had been in Championship freefall in recent months.

Wanderers have not managed to win a game by more than one goal in nearly a year – the last occasion being a 2-0 victory against Cardiff City, now in the Premier League.

And without that safety cushion you feared there would always be a chance Parkinson’s side would slip back into their old ways.

Josh Magennis looked refreshed after being restored to the front line at The Den but the Northern Irishman’s withdrawal at the break with a dead leg meant a shift in approach. Clayton Donaldson’s introduction meant Bolton no longer had a target man to aim at, and thus an altogether familiar story unfolded.

Bit by bit, the midfield which had been so progressive retreated to the edge of the penalty box, inviting Millwall’s battering ram attack to keep pounding at the door.

Even though Beevers, Jason Lowe, Joe Williams and Co rolled up their sleeves to protect the penalty box there was an ominous sense they could not do so until the final whistle. And so once Neil Harris had swapped full-back James Meredith for another body in midfield, Jiri Skalak, the tipping point was reached.

The equalising goal was initially awarded to the substitute but later claimed by Jake Cooper. From a Bolton perspective, it mattered not.

You briefly feared the home side would use the final eight minutes to find a winning goal but, thankfully, they could not find a way through.

Some players in white sunk to their knees at the final whistle, as if lamenting defeat, and the feeling of disappointment would have been difficult to shift as they boarded the coach bound for Euston Station and a return to the North West.

The negative aspects warrant examination. Donaldson touched the ball just once in the Millwall penalty box after coming on to the pitch in the second half, but made four defensive clearances. Sammy Ameobi also had little effect, filling in as an auxiliary full-back for the most part.

Marc Wilson, who had been brought into the midfield for the first time, disappeared from the game completely after the break as the quality of football broke down. He, like Williams, was restricted to marking space, rather than getting on the ball.

Millwall’s two second-half substitutions – an attacking full-back in Mahlon Romeo and the left-sided Skalak – asked serious tactical questions, to which there were no real answers.

Though the nagging doubts were left at the final whistle, it is only fair to underline the fact Wanderers had got themselves into a fully deserved lead before the break.

They should have had a penalty when Buckley was tripped early on and the winger – who was unplayable early on – was also denied by Jordan Archer after surging through on goal again. Lowe, having his best game in a Bolton shirt to date, was also denied by the Lions keeper with a breath-taking save from the follow-up.

Ben Alnwick also did his bit in the Bolton goal, denying Lee Gregory and Ryan Leonard before Beevers headed off the line.

As ever, Beevers was given a hard time by the Millwall fans. His goal, headed in at the far post from Joe Williams’ fine cross, had silenced the unpleasant chants, and his overall performance certainly deserved praise.

Wanderers had been firing on all cylinders until a bizarre stoppage midway through the half which took all the momentum out of the game.

Unbeknown to most of the ground, the planned referee for the game, Tony Harrington, had been ill before kick-off and replaced by Lee Swabey. As a result, a local referee – Steve Perry – was brought in as a fourth official.

There was no questioning Perry’s allegiances as he celebrated Archer’s double save from Buckley and Lowe, much to the amusement of Phil Parkinson and his coaching staff. But the game took a farcical turn when Swabey limped off with a calf problem, leaving the game with no referee.

Linesman Daniel Leach eventually took the whistle, with Perry upgraded to linesman.

Frantic gesturing on the touchline suggested this was unchartered territory and Parkinson later claimed a call was made to EFL referee chief David Allison to check what the next move should be.

In the event, Perry did his job manfully and saw out the second half without real incident. A late Millwall goal was ruled out for offside, but such was the confusion, it was difficult to ascertain who had made the decision.

Wanderers had one real chance to make the game secure as Lowe was denied again by Archer, in goal only because Ben Amos was unable to play against his parent club. The former Blackburn Rovers midfielder showed an attacking side to his game we have not seen thus far, and one we can only hope is allowed to shine through more in the coming weeks.

Millwall peppered the penalty area with crosses as they gradually won the battle for territory. As their gameplan became slightly more refined, however, they looked more likely to get the equaliser, which arrived with eight minutes left.

Refereeing Guess Who aside, the over-riding emotion of Saturday’s game was frustration. Having got the goal-scoring monkey off their back Wanderers could have made a real statement in South London to the 661 travelling fans but, alas, ended up with a half-measure.

There are positive aspects to take into Tuesday night’s game against Sheffield Wednesday where another point would not be a terrible result, at all.

But looming on the horizon next weekend is a home derby with Wigan Athletic. And how Wanderers could do themselves a favour by going into that game with some momentum.