Mooney puts Watford on top

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The Independent Football

Tommy Mooney took Watford to the summit of the First Division after slotting home a late penalty against Bolton at Vicarage Road.

Tommy Mooney took Watford to the summit of the First Division after slotting home a late penalty against Bolton at Vicarage Road.

Liverpudlian Mooney, a half-time substitute, scored after Anthony Barness had handballed inside the area. However, the decision which sparked the ire of Bolton manager Sam Allardyce came a minute later, when defender Darren Ward committed an identical offence to halt a goal-bound shot as Bolton poured forward.

"I've seen both incidents on television and it's clear to see that they were blatant penalties in each case," said Allardyce. "The fact we were the away side probably made the difference in the mind of the referee.

"It's a cruel, unjust blow for us and I don't know how much we can take. We went there to get at least a point and we've had it taken away from us by a referee's decision. I think something should be done about these inconsistencies."

The visitors adopted a defensive formation from the start and began with Michael Ricketts as a lone man up-front. Watford struggled for long periods and Ricketts would have given Bolton an early lead if his header had not been cleared off the line by Allan Nielsen.

Per Frandsen should have scored after breaking through a static home defence, but Watford captain Robert Page managed to get in a block after the Dane dallied in front of goal. Left-back Paul Robinson completed the defensive duties with a block from Kevin Nolan's follow-up.

Icelandic striker Heidar Helguson missed an opportunity to break the deadlock just before the interval but he could only manage a feeble effort after a mistake by Mark Fish.

However, Watford finally got their reward in the 87th minute when Mooney fired home from the spot. Manager Graham Taylor said: "Bolton came to us in a defensive manner but we managed to grind out the result. I didn't see their penalty appeal but spot-kicks have to be deliberate to be awarded. That said, I can understand how Sam feels. These are big games and I'm delighted if we can continue to pick up points, though I don't kid myself that it means anything at this stage."

Watford (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Cox, Page, Ward, Robinson; Helguson (Wooter, h/t), Palmer, Hyde, Nielsen; Noel-Williams (Smart, 83), Smith (Mooney h/t). Substitutes not used: Day (gk), Easton.

Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Bergsson, Fish, Barness, Charlton; Hansen (Rankin, 78), Elliott (Passi, 68), Frandsen; Nolan, Gardner; Ricketts (Farrelly, 63). Substitutes not used: Banks (gk), Gope-Fenepej.

Referee: P Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent)