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RETRO MATCH: When Bolton put six past QPR at Burnden Park in 1969

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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In a week where Wanderers crashed six goals past Sunderland it seems only fitting that we revisit another goal-laden classic from the sixties, billed as one of the most exciting games ever played at Burnden Park.

Things had not been going well for Nat Lofthouse’s team in the second division, where the club’s fortunes had slowly declined since dropping out of the top-flight five years earlier.

Five games without a win, they welcomed London glamour boys, and promotion chasers, Queen’s Park Rangers to Burnden on an icy Lancashire day, and the sort of playing surface that would be deemed unplayable in this day and age.

Barely a minute in, the Whites fell behind as Mick Leach headed Rodney Marsh’s free kick past Alan Boswell, and the crowd of 6,957 might well have feared the worst.

An equaliser arrived in peculiar fashion on 24 minutes as Gordon Taylor’s cross-shot deceived Alan Spratley and before half time John Byrom scored his first of the day to put Bolton ahead, hooking in a cross from the left.

All standard stuff to that point – but as the temperatures dropped, players on both sides began to struggle with their footing, and chances materialised at both ends.

John Manning made it three with a fine header in the 55th minute and though Harry Bridges pulled one back, Terry Wharton raced clear to score a fourth goal.

The Rangers goal was put under heavy pressure as the four-man front line of Wharton, Byrom, Manning and Taylor went in search of a fifth.

But against the run of play Dave Clement, who would go on to play for Wanderers a decade later, headed home an equaliser to jangle nerves among the home supporters.

That seemed to spur Bolton on, however, and after Manning had headed his team in front on 71 minutes, Byrom completed the job with another goal nine minutes from the whistle.

Marsh grabbed a consolation goal – not mentioned in Frank Booth’s report at the time, so presumably he had lost count – but Bolton held on for a precious two points.

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For some supporters old enough to remember, the result conjured memories of Christmas Day 1952 when Wanderers were beaten 6-4 by Arsenal, with Bobby Langton also missing a penalty.

It had been the first time Wanderers had scored six since beating Hull City in August 1967 and – much like the Sunderland game on Saturday, few could have forecast such a resounding score-line.

“We were desperately in need of a win – not only for the points but to give the boys more confidence,” said manager, Lofthouse.

“I know we conceded four goals but three of them came from dead ball situations and we must stamp that out.

“It is inevitable when you decide to go all-out on attack that there are gaps left at the back but it was the sort of day where you had to do this.

“Rangers obviously had the same idea and the crowd goal value for money.

“We certainly gave them something to shout about and they were behind us all the way.”

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Wanderers continued to experience financial problems and announced shortly after the game that they had put Gareth Williams on the transfer list.

The wing-half had cost £50,000 from Cardiff City but had been banned by the club for a fortnight after refusing to train when he was dropped from the team to face Aston Villa.

By the Monday, it was reported that former Wanderers chairman Charles Norman Banks had passed away at the age of 78.

Banks had served 44 years on the Bolton board before stepping down in 1968 and also been chairman of the Central League and West Lancs League.

Wanderers’ current board announced they were meeting to discuss the appointment of a new chief coach to work alongside Lofthouse, who had taken on the reins from Bill Ridding in August the previous year.

New scout Willie Moir also confirmed to The Bolton Evening News that he had been unable to scout the club’s next opponents, Hull City, because their game at Leicester had been called off for snow.

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I should remember this match but I don't, I certainly was around back then.

I do remember us beating Cardiff 6-3 a few years later though. Funnily it was the first ever game I took my little cousin to see and he thought all Bolton games were going to be that brilliant - I didn't want to spoil his day by telling him about all the many disappointments to come!

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