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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » Last day dramas: Can Bolton add another memorable result to the list?

Last day dramas: Can Bolton add another memorable result to the list?

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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Final-day dramas are nothing new for Bolton Wadererers fans, who have surely lived on their nerves more than any set of supporters in the past few decades.

While other clubs can think about the beach and slug it out for mid-table obscurity, there has been something riding on the final game for Bolton more often than not.

And while there has been some tear-filled disappointments – let’s not mention Blackpool in 2013, Chelsea in 1998 or Stoke in 2012 – there have also been some memorable moments.

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Trailing Nottingham Forest 2-1 with four minutes to go and needing a win to stay in the Championship, Wanderers produced the most stunning comeback imaginable in May 2018.

David Wheater’s equaliser was followed by a goal that still brings chills to the spine as Ben Alnwick’s long punt is flicked on by Karl Henry and Adam Le Fondre crosses for Aaron Wilbraham to head home, sparking joyous scenes on and off the pitch.

Veteran Wilbraham had been a surprise starter for such an important game but guaranteed himself a place in the history books with a truly iconic celebration.

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For pure tension, you would have to go a long way to beat Wanderers’ final day promotion from the old Second Division.

Looking to clinch second spot ahead of Port Vale and avoid the play-offs, Bruce Rioch’s side knew they needed to beat local rivals Preston North End at Burnden Park.

More than 21,000 expectant supporters turned out to see a game that was low on quality but high on drama, settled by John McGinlay’s famous penalty 16 minutes from time.

It just had to be Super John, who had scored 22 goals in all competitions that season, but none more important.

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With the rest of the country seemingly rooting for West Ham to avoid the drop, Sam Allardyce’s Wanderers hosted Middlesbrough in 2003 looking to upset the Premier League establishment once again.

Early goals from Per Frandsen and Jay Jay Okocha meant the Reebok was in party mood for much of the afternoon – and that filtered through in the Midlands as the Hammers fell 2-1 behind after leading through a Les Ferdinand strike.

Michael Ricketts – of all people – pulled one back for Boro to start nerves jangling, but Franck Queudrue’s red card for a terrible challenge on Ivan Campo ensured there was no late drama, even though Paulo di Canio levelled late on for West Ham.

With safety secured, Sam Allardyce was honour-bound to dance that famous touchline jig with Jay-Jay Okocha, and the rest is history.

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Backed by a huge contingent of travelling fans, Wanderers went to Wrexham on the final day of the 1987/88 season knowing they had to better Torquay United’s result against Scunthorpe to claim third spot.

The game was a grind but as news filtered through from the transistor radios that Torquay had fallen behind, Wanderers began to respond.

A red card for home midfielder Geoff Hunter not only gave them a man advantage but also a free-kick, which eventually found its way to Robbie Savage to drill the ball into the net for what would be the winning goal.

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Wanderers had done the hardest work by beating Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park in 1978 to secure promotion to the First Division. But to claim the title they had to stay ahead of Southampton, Tottenham and Brighton, who were all contesting the final two spots.

On what proved a fairly relaxing afternoon all in all at Burnden, Ian Greaves’ side fought out a goalless draw against Fulham to lift the silverware in front of 34,110 supporters, most of whom had spilled on to the pitch to get a close look at their heroes.

Elsewhere, the stalemate between Southampton and Spurs is still talked about in bitter terms by Brighton fans, as it ensured both sides would go up, and that the Seagulls would remain in the Second Division for another season.

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Wanderers had made hard work of the final few weeks of the 2016/17 season and had promotion snatched away in the final minutes of the penultimate weekend after beating Port Vale.

But they knew a win against Peterborough United in their final game would guarantee a return to the Championship – and Phil Parkinson’s side let nobody in the packed-out Macron down that day.

Jem Karacan, David Wheater and Adam Le Fondre scored the goals as the whole of Bolton went into party mode.

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