Bolton back with big boys

Bolton Wanderers 2 Fairclough 44, McGinlay 49 QPR 1 Morrow 13 Attendance: 19,196
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Goals either side of half time yesterday ensured that Bolton Wanderers will return to the Premiership next season. Bolton will now aim to secure the first division title outright by beating Manchester City on Wednesday.

Colin Todd, their manager said: "Our aim now is to be champions. We have lost four games out of 41, which shows great consistency. Every game throws up a challenge and today was one where we could win promotion. The most important thing was to win, and we have won in front of our own supporters, which is a bonus."

In truth, this was one of Bolton's least distinguished performances in a season in which they have dominated their division and they were even fortunate to win when Rufus Brevett hit a post in the last minute.

But tat was all of little importance to the club's supporters as the players took their lap of honour around this soon-to-be-abandoned Furnden Park.

It has been inevitable for some weeks that the Wanderers would go back into the level of football they slid tamely out of last year, but for much of the first half yesterday it looked as though confirmation of that fact might be deferred.

Steve Morrow, on his Rangers debut, did something he had hardly been noted for during his Arsenal career by hammering a 25-yard shot past Keith Branagan after 13 minutes.

As Bolton struggled to find their rhythm, it looked likely to be a case of not doing today what could be put off until the Morrow. But then, in the last minute of the first half, Alan Thompson's free-kick hit the wall and was not properly cleared.

Gerry Taggart re-directed the ball to Nathan Blake on the left flank and when he whipped in his low cross, Jurgen Sommer's hand only pushed it into the path of Chris Fairclough.

Three minutes into the second half, Rangers, with playoff ambitions of their own, were behind and condemned to playing a supporting role in Bolton's party. Thompson steered a probing ball into the box and John McGinlay, hero of so many of Bolton's key victories over the last few seasons, thrust out a leg to loft it past Sommer.

In traditional manner, the Bolton fans asked their former manager, Bruce Rioch, now conveniently on the touchline with Rangers to witness a moment that must have brought back memories, "what's the score?"

Wanderers should know the score sufficiently well from recent experience to realise that, when the party ends, the hard work starts.