McBride's double seals fine finish for Fulham

Bolton Wanderers 0 Fulham 2
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The Independent Football

Fulham finished the season with the best possible riposte to the pundits who put them high on their list of relegation candidates back in August. A goal in each half from the American striker Brian McBride was enough to lift them to their highest position in the top flight, overtaking the tenth place they achieved in 1959-60 when Johnny Haynes was in his pomp.

Fulham finished the season with the best possible riposte to the pundits who put them high on their list of relegation candidates back in August. A goal in each half from the American striker Brian McBride was enough to lift them to their highest position in the top flight, overtaking the tenth place they achieved in 1959-60 when Johnny Haynes was in his pomp.

They also brought Bolton's five-match winning streak to an end, though with better finishing the Premiership's other great over-achievers could have ended their own best season for 44 years on a winning note.

Their ever present striker Kevin Davies missed three excellent chances and Fulham goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar made a number of vital stops as Bolton dominated possession. But it was McBride who was calm and collected when Fulham attacked on the break, ensuring that their manager Chris Coleman's 50th game in charge ended with the tonic he deserved at the end of a season interrupted by illness.

McBride struck first at the end of the opening period, rising unchallenged at the far post to nod Luis Boa Morte's pinpoint cross beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen. And he sealed Fulham's victory 12 minutes from time when he slammed in Steed Malbranque's cross from close range.

"He was fantastic,'' Coleman said. "I have often used him as a substitute, but when he gets his chance he always gives 100 per cent.'' But for McBride, a game played with the lack of inhibition that showed the pressure was off for both sides, could have gone either way. There was expansive passing that swept the width of the pitch, and delicate flicks and outrageous back-heels from both sides. There was also some sloppy finishing and a bit of bad luck for Bolton. "The lads wanted to showboat before they had won the game,'' their manager, Sam Allardyce, said.

Davies should have put Bolton ahead when a rare error by Fulham's French international defender Alain Goma allowed him to race clear, but as home fans waited for what seemed an age in breathless anticipation of a goal, he allowed Van der Sar to come out and smother his shot.

The goalkeeper was to deny him again in the second half when the striker slid in unchallenged in the six-yard box, and Davies then put a similar chance wide with the goal gaping. The closest Bolton came to scoring was when Jay-Jay Okocha's 20-yard free-kick cannoned back off the crossbar, but perhaps it was too much to expect the midfielder who has played such a big part in Bolton's best-ever Premiership campaign to open his account for the season so late in the day.

McBride's goals apart, Fulham's best spell came after the break when a clever back-heel from Sean Davis put in McBride, Boa Morte found Davis with a similar piece of audacity, and Bolton defender Emerson Thome survived a penalty appeal.

And for once, both sets of fans went home happy, satisfied with a season that exceeded their own, and most other observers, expectations.

Bolton Wanderers 0 Fulham 2
McBride 45, 78

Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 27,383

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