Bolton inspired by McGinlay double-act for Bolton

Bolton Wanderers 2 Reading 1
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Bolton Wanderers went four points clear at the top of the First Division last night with a win that will stoke the fires of belief for the rest of the winter. Ignore the scoreline, it was the circumstances that underlined their commitment to return to the Premiership at the first attempt.

Having had their goalkeeper, Keith Branagan, sent off, Bolton scrapped for 26 minutes to protect their win in front of a flimsy last line of defence that was John McGinlay. The Scottish international striker proved to be a match-winner in more ways than one, scoring the deciding goal before his emergency stand-in role.

Colin Todd, the Bolton manager, said: "We talk about character and the team showed it tonight. We had to dig in to get the points. I've got four goalkeepers on my books now, and I'm not sure where McGinlay comes in the order."

McGinlay, though, felt the credit lay elsewhere. "I told the team to keep the shots and crosses away from me and they did just that," he said. "I thought the team defended superbly and made life easy for me. They should get the credit."

The match revolved around the 64th minute sending-off of Branagan. Before that, Bolton had secured a 2-1 lead and looked unlikely to be seriously challenged. But when the goalkeeper dived to handle the ball outside his area to halt Lee Nogan in a goalscoring position, the mood changed radically.

Reading took one look at the diminutive-looking McGinlay between the Bolton posts and charged at him, pressing the home team deep into their own half. Apart from a James Lambert header that McGinlay tipped over the bar and a shot from Michael Gilkes that shaved a post, however, they could not find a way through.

During the opening 20 minutes, Reading reinforced their reputation as one of the Division's most eye-catching sides. Yet, as Chelsea found to their cost in the Coca-Cola Cup, a bright start does not guarantee a good result.

Fortune went Bolton's way after 40 minutes when Scott Sellars' shot ricocheted off a defender and beat Tommy Wright. Fate was hardly smiling on Reading when Paul Bodin's back-pass fell into the path of McGinlay. With superb aplomb the Bolton striker walked the ball past the goalkeeper.

Indeed, the only bright point on an unhappy night for Reading was Lambert's 51st minute goal, a close-range header from Andy Bernal's pass.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Branagan; Bergsson (Todd, 20), Fairclough, Taggart, Phillips; Johansen (Lee, 78), Frandsen, Thompson, Sellars; McGinlay, Taylor. Substitute not used: Small.

Reading (5-4-1): Wright; Bernal, Hunter, McPherson (Meaker, 85), Hopkins, Bodin; Gilkes, Caskey (Quinn, 68), Gooding, Lambert; Nogan (Parkinson, 68). Substitute not used: Meaker.

Referee: W Burns (Scarborough).