Football: Thompson capitalises on brilliant Branagan

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The Independent Online
Bolton Wanderers 2 Leicester City 0

THE Bolton manager, Colin Todd, highlighted a breathtaking 66th-minute save by goalkeeper Keith Branagan as a turning point in his side's crucial Premiership victory over Leicester.

The 31-year-old twisted in mid-air to scoop Matt Elliott's header from under his crossbar to preserve his side's precious one-goal advantage before Alan Thompson added a second in the final minute yesterday.

Todd said: "I said to the players at half-time: `If you believe in yourselves you'll win the game'. "We did, but there was another twist in the tail which was Keith's save. I said it was equal to Gordon Banks', but from my point of view it was better because it kept a clean sheet."

Todd believes that the Republic of Ireland man could be a permanent fixture at international level and said: "Keith's been away all week as well. He didn't get on but with performances like that... he's a good keeper."

Branagan's Bolton and Republic of Ireland team-mate, John Sheridan, said the wonder save had not surprised anyone at the Reebok stadium. "He's got good reflexes, and he's done it a few times for us," he said. "We worked hard and now we're getting a few little breaks we need."

For the Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, Branagan's stop was a serious rebuff to his Uefa Cup ambitions as his team slipped to a third consecutive defeat, which pushed them three places down the Premiership table.

O'Neill said: "We're going to have to start winning again to start talking about Europe. And we've got to start looking over our shoulder again - you never know. You need a magical 42 or 43 points. Their goalkeeper made some absolutely incredible saves. The save from Mattie Elliott, I just didn't believe."

But O'Neill felt the result was no reflection on the second-half dominance his side had enjoyed. After a stormy first period which saw the Bolton captain, Gudni Bergsson, and Leicester's Robert Ullathorne dismissed, City striker Emile Heskey missed a golden chance in the 51st minute before Thompson scored his first goal two minutes later.

O'Neill said: "If we had got a goal at any stage we'd have won the game. All the chances had fallen to us, and for an away side I thought we played terrific."

For Bolton, Thompson's seventh and eighth strikes of the season were a timely return to goalscoring form for the Geordie midfielder. Todd said: "Last season we did get goals from different areas, and there's no better time to start again than now."

Goals: Thompson (52) 1-0; Thompson (89) 2-0.

Bolton Wanderers: Branagan; Cox, Fish, Thompson, Phillips, Bergsson, Sheridan, Todd, Frandsen, Taylor, Holdsworth (Salako, 37; Johansen, 84). Substitutes not used: Fairclough, Giallanza, Ward (gk).

Leicester City: Keller; Kaamark, Ullathorne, Prior, Elliott, Parker, Lennon (Fenton, 75), Zagorakis (Wilson, 62), Savage, Guppy, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Cottee, Watts, Arphexad (gk).

Referee: U D Rennie (Sheffield).

Sending-off: Bolton: Bergsson. Leicester: Ullathorne. Bookings: Bolton: Thompson, Todd, Phillips. Leicester: Zagorakis.

Man of the match: Thompson.

Attendance: 25,000.

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