When they heard that Manchester City had snatched the Premier League title, Bolton hearts would have dropped. They could have saved themselves.
The final whistle had gone when word reached the Britannia Stadium about what had happened in Manchester. Then their minds would have raced back to the two goals that ended their 11-year stay in the top flight.
The first went in after 13 minutes. Matthew Etherington played the ball in and Zat Knight froze. It struck Jonathan Walters, reared up and Adam Bogdan seemed to have got at least a glove and a half to it before Walters bundled it out of his hands and into the net. Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, was incandescent.
"How that goal could have been given, I do not know,"Coyle said afterwards. "Walters' head hit Bodgan's arm halfway up his elbow."
Coyle, right, had reason to bemoan Stoke's second goal too. Peter Crouch seemed to fall over Bodgan as they scrambled for the ball. Walters scored the penalty.
For those around Coyle, like Fabrice Muamba in the stands, the day must have been unbearable. Only when a goal down did Bolton come to terms with their task. Mark Davies equalised before his namesake Kevin put Bolton ahead; they were staying up.
News that Queen's Park Rangers were beating City flooded through the stands and the game became flat. The misses would not matter after all. Only on the final whistle were their cost clear.Reuse content