Bolton Wanderers 0 Leeds United 2
The chilling fear of relegation straight back into the Endsleigh League has Bolton more firmly than ever in its icy grip after a match in which they exerted much of the pressure without being crisp enough to capitalise.
On a night cold enough to freeze a ball-point, the undersoil heating at Burnden Park made the pitch playable, even if a glistening crust sometimes reduced play to a lottery.
Bolton's number was up when they twice failed to deal with crosses that should have been tidied up without too much fuss. The first, from Gary Kelly, saw Leeds go ahead six minutes before half-time. Tony Yeboah, due to fly off to play in the rather different climes of Cairo today, got to it first and, as Bolton seemed to be hoping for a late Christmas present of an offside decision, Tomas Brolin swept the ball home on a night when there was more than the Swedish flag draped at the Railway Embankment end to remind him of home, or of somewhere several hundred miles north of it.
The shiny top dressing of frost had threatened to be an important player in the match from the start, especially when Richard Sneekes' long shot reared up off a length like an Allan Donald bouncer to hit the unsuspecting Mark Beeney in the chest.
As the game went on, however, Leeds, without an away win for three months, proved the side with the more poise when it mattered. Apart from their first-half goal, Gary McAllister hit the post with a deflected free-kick and Yeboah narrowly failed to scramble the ball in during the ensuing melee.
The supporters shivering on the only standing terraces in the Premiership needed no second invitation to bounce up and down energetically at half- time.
If that got the circulation going, the local favourite, Sasa Curcic, momentarily rekindled their hope with a shot that flashed past the post.
Leeds were that little bit more accurate, though, Brian Deane striking the post to emphasise that they were the more incisive side given a sight of goal.
After 62 minutes, that extra cutting edge finished Bolton off. McAllister's right-wing corner by-passed the penalty the area and Mark Ford, under no particular pressure, put it back over from the left for David Wetherall to rise above the Bolton defence and head in cleanly.
There were some signs of improvement from Bolton, notably when their new signing Nathan Blake, twice put John McGinlay through, only for Richard Jobson to foil with tackles that were remarkably well timed in the conditions.
But, with five points now separating them from Coventry and six from Manchester City, and theoretical safety, it threatens, despite Howard Wilkinson's warm words about their spirit and energy, to be a cold, unforgiving New Year for the Wanderers.
Bolton Wanderers (3-1-4-2): Branagan; Fairclough, Bergsson, Taggart; Sellars; Green, Curcic, Sneekes (Burnett, 68), Phillips (De Freitas, 87); McGinlay, Blake. Substitute not used: McAnespie.
Leeds United (4-3-1-2): Beeney; Kelly, Wetherall, Jobson, Dorigo; McAllister, Speed, Ford; Brolin (Radebe, 89), Deane, Yeboah. Substitutes not used: Wallace,Couzens.
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).Reuse content