It was a Grand National day local derby with the big drop looming on the other side of defeat. Bolton, odds-on favourites for relegation since the book was opened, have recovered spiritedly in recent games, but too late it seems.
City, despite the wizardry of Georgi Kinkladze, were thrown back into the ditch when they lost at West Ham a week earlier. Neither could afford to contemplate defeat yesterday.
Bolton charged into the challenge - and were almost immediately themselves charged with negligence in their own penalty area. Gavin Ward, making his first appearance for Bolton, had not even enjoyed a first touch of the ball when a free-kick quickly taken by Nigel Clough led to Scott Hiley flighting a high cross from the left. Niall Quinn reared high above the defence, glanced his header and, presumably, Ward thought that the ball was going to fly safely wide. Instead it dropped beyond him, just inside the far post. And only 84 seconds had elapsed since the kick-off.
Intense pressure by Bolton over the final stages of the first half emphasised City's worrying frailty in defence, but somehow nothing gave. Tackles rapped ankles, Alan Thompson and Simon Coleman of Bolton, and Keith Curle, Summerbee and Michael Brown of City, had their names taken, while both goalkeepers fretted as shots came roaring out of the packed penalty areas.
Yet while the giant Quinn and the jewel Kinkladze were always likely to cause damage to Bolton, it was not easy to see where the source of a possible equaliser might lie.
City ought to have created a buffer early in the second half when Kinkladze cleverly jinked across the face of the goal, before deciding that Summerbee was better placed for a shot. But he was wrong.
Inexplicably, Summerbee drove wide, and within seconds Bolton were again granted a reprieve when Clough, falling backwards in a crowded goalmouth, clipped the bar with a well-salvaged shot.
Poor finishing remained Bolton's problem, but after 73 minutes Sasa Curcic speculated on a high cross that took a slight deflection, sufficient for the ball to drop perfectly to John McGinlay who rose above the much taller Curle to head in. Within a minute Summerbee was taking down Thompson at the knees, and as this compounded an earlier bookable foul on the same player, the hard-pressed referee had no alternative but to send him off.
City attempted to close down the game. Bolton were rampant, their future passing in front of their eyes. Nathan Blake, a late substitute, almost faded a header past Eike Immel, but in reality it was Bolton's inability to convert midfield activity into serious pressure that again bedevilled them.Reuse content