Blake prompts the P word

Bolton Wanderers 4 Port Vale 2

Colin Todd refuses to use the P word, as he puts it, but promotion is coming into view at an accelerating rate. Bolton are now 16 points clear at the top of the First Division and with only seven matches to go are threatening to lap the back-markers.

This win, their 15th at home this season, was secured with two goals in the last nine minutes from Chris Fairclough and Nathan Blake after a pedestrian performance that threatened to have the manager using plenty of P words - poor and plodding come to mind - when Port Vale looked likely to take a point.

In this division Bolton, even at their most sloppy, are too strong for most of their rivals and, with Wolves and Sheffield United also losing last night, their advantage at the top stretched even further. The rest are playing for second place.

What the Premiership will make of their defence next season is another matter. There is a theory that Bolton's attack and midfield are good enough for the elite. The back four might not be - and this match did nothing to dispel it.

Jon McCarthy slipped through the home rearguard like a ghost for Ian Bogie's goal after two minutes and Wanderers' players were not conspicuous by their presence when Lee Mills flicked on a free-kick after 50 minutes for Stuart Talbot to get Vale's second.

In between Bolton had scored twice. After eight minutes John McGinlay found his route to the right wing blocked and turned inside to locate Per Frandsen charging through. The Dane's shot did not look particularly threatening but it squeezed in at the near post as Paul Musselwhite anticipated a shot to the opposite corner.

Then, after 37 minutes, Scott Sellars crossed to the far post where Blake and the visitors' Dean Glover combined to knock the ball in. The Bolton player claimed it, although the last touch seemed to belong to the Vale defender.

Talbot's equaliser gave Vale hope in their pursuit of a play-off place, which was confounded by a thumping header by Fairclough from Sellars' corner after 81 minutes. Blake, strolling round Musselwhite a minute later, added an embellishment Bolton did not really deserve.

Flattered was the word that seemed pertinent and, yes, Todd did use it.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Branagan; McAnespie, Fairclough, Taggart, Phillips; Johansen, Frandsen, Thompson, Sellars; McGinlay, Blake (Paatelainen, 86) Substitutes not used: Sheridan, Ward (gk).

Port Vale: Musselwhite; Hill, Aspin, Glover, Tankard; McCarthy, Porter (Naylor, 83), Bogie, Koordes (Corden, 83); Talbot, Mills. Substitute not used: Walker.

Referee: G Cain (Bootle).

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