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Football: Lee the key as Bolton show character

Bolton Wanderers 2 Bradford City 1
Grit was the word at Bolton yesterday, on the terraces of freezing Burnden Park and in the home dressing-room.

The home side's manager, Colin Todd, was only too pleased to salute that quality in his First Division leaders, after they displayed a new side to their nature following a recent hiccup in form that threatened their lofty position.

The fixture calendar has been kind, with three successive games against strugglers, but Bolton have found themselves in time to restore their lead and stretch to five points ahead of their closest adversaries.

Todd, close to celebrating his first anniversary in sole charge, said after an unremarkable game: "It was a tremendous win. Sometimes you have to grind out results, and I have congratulated the players for the way they have come through a hectic series of games.

"Psychologically we have put the other teams under a bit of pressure. We know there is a long way to go, but we've shown true grit and I am really delighted."

There was little to warm the chilled souls on the slopes of this ageing stadium until David Lee, frozen to the bench, was sent on to turn stalemate into success with two flashes of his unpredictable skill.

Lee had no right to be in the centre after 67 minutes when a wayward clearance by Nicky Mohan fell at his feet, but he asked no questions as he steadied himself and poked home the opening goal.

So often erratic when crossing, Lee then produced the perfect ball for Scott Sellars to nod home a rare header seven minutes from time to ensure a third successive victory, albeit just before and after two scares.

Bradford had come to frustrate, in the words of their manager, Chris Kamara, but they realised in the closing stages that the 22 places between them and Bolton were not as daunting in reality as on paper.

Their own substitute striker, Carl Shutt, was inches away with a reaction header at 1-0 and then hit the target from a fine Richard Liburd cross in the 87th minute.

Kamara said: "Perhaps we paid Bolton too much respect. In the last 20 minutes we created better opportunities than they had done in the whole game."

While Bolton plan a loan signing of Paul Warhurst from Blackburn Rovers to boost their ranks, hard-up Bradford are left to shuffle their pack in an increasingly difficult battle against relegation.

Kamara deserves better but, with a notoriously impatient chairman, he may yet be one of the first casualties of 1997.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Ward; Bergsson (Todd, 52), Fairclough, Taggart, Small; Green (Lee, 59), Sheridan, Frandsen, Sellars; Blake, McGinlay. Substitute not used: Pollock.

Bradford City (5-4-1): Schwarzer; Liburd, O'Brien (Kiwomya, 78), Dreyer, Mohan, Jacobs; Hamilton, Waddle, Cowans (Pinto, 58), Duxbury; Steiner (Shutt, 67).

Referee: T Heilbron (Newton Aycliffe).