Football: Century in their sights

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The Independent Online
Bolton Wanderers 2 Crystal Palace 2

It is 16 years since a team from the Premiership or Football League scored a century of goals in a season. Huddersfield Town were the last club to achieve that feat, scoring 101 goals on their way to the championship of the old Fourth Division.

In all probability that record will not be bettered this season, but Bolton Wanderers and Crystal Palace are making a fair attempt at topping it. The leading two in the Nationwide League First Division took their tallies this season to 40 and 41, respectively, when they met at Burnden Park on Saturday and if they were to maintain their present strike rate both would beat the 100-goal mark come next May.

The reality, of course, is that teams rarely perform at the same level throughout the course of a season. Just as Bolton and Palace dried up after four goals in the first 41 minutes on Saturday, so they can be expected to have barren spells at some stage of the campaign.

Colin Todd, the Bolton manager, and Dave Bassett, his Palace counterpart, appreciate that, but both are determined to enjoy their teams' free-scoring runs while they last.

A midweek defeat at Birmingham failed to dampen Bolton's spirits and they were mightily impressive here, despite dropping points at Burnden Park for only the second time this season, and Bassett was quick to acknowledge after the game that Bolton had been the better team.

Bolton went two goals up in 21 minutes through a ferocious drive by John Sheridan, who is on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, and a penalty by John McGinlay. Had Nathan Blake's left-foot shot gone into the net instead of rebounding off a post to safety, Bolton might have had the game wrapped up.

Instead, Palace struck back with splendid goals by David Hopkin and Dougie Freedman, two Scotsmen who are waging a private battle to finish as Palace's top scorer this season.

Hopkin, who now has 12 goals to Freedman's 10, has been Palace's most improved player this season and his form has meant that Bassett's side have hardly missed their captain, Ray Houghton, who has been sidelined for several weeks with a leg injury.

Bolton, who remained on top after the break, could count themselves unlucky not to have taken all three points. For once, however, their finishing failed to match up to their approach play.

Goals: Sheridan (11) 1-0; McGinlay (21 pen) 2-0; Hopkin (39) 2- 1; Freedman (41) 2-2.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Branagan; Bergsson, Fairclough, Taggart, Phillips; Johansen, Sheridan, Todd, Sellars (Green 80); Blake, McGinlay. Substitutes not used: Taylor, Lee.

Crystal Palace (3-4-1-2): Day; Tuttle, Roberts, Quinn (Gordon, 68); Edworthy, Hopkin, Veart, Muscat; Freedman; Shipperley, Dyer (Trollope 68). Substitute not used: McKenzie.

Referee: J Kirkby (Sheffield).

Bookings: Bolton: Phillips, Sheridan. Palace: Quinn.

Man of the match: Roberts.

Attendance: 16,892.