Kinnear's red haze

Bolton Wanderers 1 McGinlay 44 pen Wimbledon 0 Attendance: 16 ,216
Click to follow
PERHAPS it isn't all over for Bolton just yet. John McGinlay's 43rd-minute penalty maintained Bolton's fragile optimism born in the wake of their 3-0 FA Cup victory at Bradford City last week. McGinlay's low strike to the left had followed Robbie Earle's disputed handball. Earle, clearly incensed, was sent off by the referee Mike Reed for dissent two minutes later.

"We've come here and created enough chances to win but once again we have lost to another referee's decision," Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, said. "In my opinion, he's just a poor referee." The comments are unlikely to escape the attentions of the FA.

"I've had run-ins with Mr Reed before and I hope that when he goes home he can live with himself. The referee told us that the sending-off was for foul and abusive language, but Robbie is a model professional."

Bolton were not complaining though. Their new-found vivacity seems to be based almost entirely around the endless surging runs of their industrious Serbian midfielder Sasa Curcic. His team-mates' only problem is keeping up with his lively mind.

Curcic caused panic in the Dons' defence in the very first minute, was bundled messily to the ground on the edge of the penalty area, only for the free- kick to find the stands, causing ripples of laughter from the crowd. But the match soon settled into a gritty stalemate, relieved only in the 22nd minute by Mixu Paatelainen's scorching drive, which at least partially stretched the Dons' goalkeeper Neil Sullivan. Encouragingly for Bolton, an edgy partnership between Curcic and McGinlay began to blossom as the second half proceeded.

The darkening Bolton skies suited the home side's mood of sombre determination. The crowd seemed to sense that the Dons might be lining up a trademark late steal. Twice, it almost came, as their makeshift strike force, Efan Ekoku and the substitute Jason Euell, both headed into Branagan's grateful hands. In the end, a gritty win seemed fitting, for arguably the least glamorous fixture in the Premiership calendar.