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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » Don't look now: Bolton Wanderers 'worst results' revealed

Don't look now: Bolton Wanderers 'worst results' revealed

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Saturday's 7-1 defeat at Accrington Stanley arrived like a bolt from the blue but if there is a scrap of solace to be taken by Wanderers fans still digesting the magnitude of the result, it is that they have been here before.

It certainly was not the first time that Bolton have been flattened by one of football’s less-fashionable names, read Neil Warnock’s Scarborough, Len Walker’s Aldershot or Richie Barker’s Crawley for more details.

Wanderers fans have watched their team take some hammering down the years, too, some of which have been brushed off as a one-time event, others more indicative of deeper problems within the club.

It remains to be seen whether Keith Hill’s team will recover quickly from their humiliation at the Wham Stadium, or whether the disappointment which was so evident after the final whistle will be allowed to fester.

Plenty of alarming score-lines have passed into the history books without achieving any particular notoriety. Who, for example, recalls Sam Allardyce’s side being hit for six by Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City in 2003? Shaun Wright-Phillips scored twice in the 6-2 rout and also got sent off but that same Bolton team reached the Carling Cup final that year and the scoreline rarely gets a mention.

Two years earlier, in the first season after promotion, Allardyce had started a mix-and-match team against Tottenham in the same competition and saw them hit for six at White Hart Lane – 90 minutes made memorable only for a rare appearance for Japanese international Akinori Nishizawa, who was hauled off at half time.

And for those with a slightly longer memory, the 1971/72 League Cup run will forever be remembered for a glorious 3-0 victory against Manchester City in front of 42,000 at Burnden, less so for the fact Bolton were beaten 6-0 by Chelsea in the next round after a valiant 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Hill and Wanderers will hope Saturday’s game fades into similar obscurity – but there are times when a defeat becomes lodged in the public consciousness forever, never to be shifted.

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The FA Cup semi-final against Stoke City in 2011 is one such game. Closer examination of Owen Coyle’s team at the time reveals that results and performances had started to unravel some months before, perhaps with the loss of key midfielder Stuart Holden on that fateful afternoon at Old Trafford, but the manner and public nature of the defeat still brings supporters out in a cold chill.

After the passing of Wanderers legend Nat Lofthouse there were some who felt Bolton’s name was on the cup that year, particularly after avoiding the big Manchester clubs in the semi-final draw.

But Tony Pulis’s team were well-drilled and blessed with the fact that everything they hit turned into goals on the day.

Another note to observe is that just seven days later, Coyle’s side beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Reebok with Tamir Cohen snatching a 90th minute winner, the type of response Keith Hill will surely be seeking from his own team in time.

The eighties were a gloomy time for English football in general, and especially at Burnden Park.

In seven years Bolton fell from Division One to Division Four, the club effectively saved from financial oblivion by a Lifeline Lottery which still goes strong to this day.

Two ‘crisis games’ stick out from the era, and both are regularly mentioned by Bolton fans who can remember those dark days as the lowest the club has ever fallen.

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The first was a grey day in May 1987 where just over 7,000 supporters watched Phil Neal’s team drop into the bottom division, courtesy of Glenn Burvill’s extra time winner for Aldershot.

A curious play-off system was introduced that season in which Bolton, who finished fourth bottom of the old Division Three, would have to fight to stay in the division by beating the Shots, who were sixth in the bottom tier, then the winner of fifth-placed Colchester United and fourth-placed Wolves in a Wembley final.

Beaten 1-0 at the Recreation Ground, swathes of fans gathered outside Burnden to voice their discontent before kick-off in the second leg. Tony Caldwell’s first-half penalty levelled the scores overall and keeper David Felgate kept hopes alive with some remarkable saves despite playing with a foot injury.

Darren Anderson gave Aldershot the crucial away goal but Caldwell – who had not scored since February – took the tie into extra time. There, with Bolton needing two goals to win, Burvill’s strike proved decisive and sparked more scenes of unrest on the terraces.

Police tried to break up the demonstrations but reports at the time described “coins and stones” being hurled towards officers, the Aldershot team bus and at windows around the ground.

The Hampshire club went on to beat Wolves in the final, whereas Wanderers sulked into the bottom tier to be met by Neil Warnock’s Scarborough, who had become the first team automatically promoted into the Football League from the Conference, rather than elected.

The first league away trip of the 1987/88 season was to Scarborough’s old Seamer Road base, which had already shown it was struggling to cope with big away followings a week earlier with 56 arrests made in a game against Wolves.

Sections of Bolton’s 4,000 travelling contingent also clashed with police, the mood hardly helped by a 4-0 scoreline which underlined the club’s fall from grace. Thankfully, the season ended on more of a high – victory at Wrexham on the final day ensuring their stay in the bottom tier was a short one.

Fast forward another nine years and Wanderers had been propelled back into the big time via the White Hot era but had found the transition a difficult one.

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The ill-fated marriage of Roy McFarland and Colin Todd had been annulled in January, Todd given license to try and salvage some pride in the second half of the season as a solo act. But when old old enemy Manchester United came to town for a televised game on February 25, what is commonly referred to as “Black Sunday” ended in a 6-0 defeat.

Todd’s attack-minded 4-4-2 system was torn to pieces by the rampant Reds, the result leaving a despairing John McGinlay to ponder afterwards: “Maybe now it is time to start planning for next season?”

A midweek meeting between players and staff agreed on a change in formation, and with it an immediate response as Gudni Bergsson scored the only goal against Leeds at Elland Road the following weekend.

Todd’s team recovered memorably the following year – not something that could be said for Bolton when they dropped out of the Premier League in 2012, to be shocked by another set of Red Devils.

A year-and-a-half on from that ignominious FA Cup semi-final, Owen Coyle’s team was still packed with well-known names when they headed to unheralded Crawley in the League Cup, only to be dumped out of the competition unceremoniously by two late goals from Billy Clarke and Nicky Ajose.

Wanderers managed to win only two of their next seven games under the Scot before he was replaced by Dougie Freedman – a manager whose reign will also be remembered chiefly for one thumping defeat.

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Had it not been for David Ngog’s scruffy consolation two minutes from time, Reading would have inflicted a record-equalling seven-goal humiliation on the Whites at the Madjeski Stadium, three of which came from future terrace favourite, Adam Le Fondre.

Freedman took a hard line on his team, reasoning that some of his players were “not good enough” to play in the Championship.

It would be another month until they won a game, by which time the knives were very much out for the former Crystal Palace boss whose efforts to restructure never met with the full approval of the terraces.

Two years later and Wanderers’ cycle of deterioration was nearly complete. The club had fallen on hard times as Eddie Davies struggled to sell, leaving Freedman’s eventual successor Neil Lennon managing a different club to the one he had arrived in.

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New ownership materialised in the form of Ken Anderson and Dean Holdsworth but the warning signs were clear that the pair were already bickering about key decisions – leaving caretaker managers Jimmy Phillips and Peter Reid with a near-impossible task to see out a season almost certain to end in relegation. Even still, a 6-0 thrashing in their first outing at Bristol City was a shock to the system strong enough to leave disgruntled Reid needing a tow back to the North West when he put petrol into his diesel car on the way back home!

Sometimes it is not the margin of defeat, nor the standard of the opponent, it is the ramification of losing a game, as Bolton found out to their cost against Wolves in 1964.

Needing a win to avoid dropping out of Division One for the first time in 29 years, the game was played at Burnden Park on a Friday night to avoid clashing with the local Holcombe Brook races.

The 4-0 defeat, coupled with victory for Birmingham City against Sheffield United the following day, ended the club’s longest spell in the top-flight to which they would not return for another 14 years.

Another result which changed the course of Wanderers forever and has a legitimate shout for being the club’s worst of all time was the 2-2 draw at Stoke City in 2012 that spelled the end of the Premier League dream.

With an increasing amount of money pouring into the top-flight it was exactly the wrong time to drop down to the Championship. And my how the Whites suffered.

A 2-0 lead was thrown away at the Reebok a week earlier against West Brom, leaving Bolton needing to beat Stoke on the final day and hope that Manchester City beat QPR in their pursuit of the league title.

They once again led after Mark Davies’ deflected effort and Kevin Davies’s cross-shot had cancelled out Jonathan Walters’ controversial goal, which looked to most onlookers like a foul on keeper Adam Bogdan.

QPR took the lead against City and morale sapped. Bogdan was adjudged to have dragged down Peter Crouch for a penalty, converted by Walters – a striker who had been sold off on the cheap nearly a decade earlier.

And to make matters worse, City rallied to score twice, Sergio Aguero’s goal immortalised forever in his moment of euphoric commentary. At the Britannia Stadium, Bolton’s 11 years in the Premier League ended with a whimper.

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