Bolton take a firmer grip

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The Independent Online
THERE IS little consolation for any side in knowing that they have only one trip to Burnden Park in the League this season. It is not a place to visit twice.

"We lost to the best team in the division and the best team by quite a bit," Wolves' manager Mark McGhee said after watching his side lose 3-0. "Losing this game is nothing like the end of the season for us but I was a bit disappointed we did not do better. Our only consolation was knowing that there aren't any other sides we will have to face as good as Bolton. They are well clear at the top and they are there on merit."

Bolton's advantage at the top of the Nationwide First Division is now nine points, with Wolves 15 points behind in fourth place. Of the other clubs pursuing Bolton, only Sheffield United, now second, and Stoke City, fifth, managed to win.

The tension at Burnden Park, packed with Bolton's biggest crowd of the season, 18,980, was such that when Nathan Blake appealed for a penalty after five minutes a brawl broke out involving all the outfield players. There was not a happy Wanderer in sight.

It was Bolton who exerted control of the game, taking the lead after 21 minutes when John McGinlay headed home his 20th goal of the season from Bryan Small's cross. Wolves' fate was settled in a four-minute spell around the hour mark when an own goal from Keith Curle made it 2-0 before Nathan Blake picked up a McGinlay pass to score Bolton's third.

Sheffield United beat Southend by the same score at Bramall Lane, where Simon Royce, the visiting goalkeeper, would probably have much preferred to have been at the seaside, even in this weather. He made two blunders, David White benefiting from the first and Gareth Taylor from the second, after Petr Kachuro, the Belarus international striker, had put the Blades ahead.

Barnsley slipped one place to third after their unbeaten run at home in the league came to a halt after eight games in a 2-1 defeat by Ipswich. Goals from Paul Mason and Jason Cundy put Ipswich in command before Andy Liddell pulled one back.

In the Second Division, Stockport thrashed Millwall 5-1 at home. The Londoners fell apart after Mark Bircham's 31st-minute dismissal for serious foul play, which allowed Alun Armstrong to give County a 2-1 lead from the spot. The leaders Brentford drew 0-0 with third placed Bristol City.

Fulham are three points clear in the Third Division after losing 3-1 at Torquay.