That, barring miracles such as a decision by Santa Claus to bestow unheard- of gifts on the Lancashire side, is their certain destination. And unless Queen's Park Rangers, who secured their fourth victory of the season, can make something of their Christmas games, Easter may arrive too late to be much use to them either.
Yesterday's game was a flowing if rarely fluent sort of contest, largely unblemished until late by the sort of fraught unpleasantness that so often attends the working days of sides in relegation trouble.
Rangers won more of the ball and therefore also wasted more of it. By the time they went ahead four minutes before the break, they might have done so on a couple of occasions. It was then that Mark Hateley, leading their line and still reluctant in the later years of his career to release the ball without a fight to opposition defenders, prodded a pass back for Simon Osborn who drilled a shot low into the right-hand corner.
Bolton replied immediately. Like so many of those clubs who have flirted with the lower reaches of the Premiership recently, their problem is not scoring goals but conceding them. Sasa Curcic, on one of several probing raids from deep, found Scott Sellars on the right. His left-foot shot took a deflection before going in.
When Curcic had a brief rampaging spell in the second half, Bolton might have squeezed into the lead. But Rangers were always the slightly smarter bet and, sure enough, 15 minutes from time Trevor Sinclair's ball across field found Hateley.
This time the former international forward knocked it short and square to Andrew Impey. Another first-time shot, another goal. Bolton were in despair for the first time, a broken side. Within seconds Gudni Bergsson had been sent off for a rash, vicious challenge from behind on Kevin Gallen.
Rangers might have gone further ahead, maybe should have done so to increase their confidence. At least with a regalvanised Hateley they have it all to play for. The somewhat naive Lancashire side must learn to do more than wander well.Reuse content