Sheer bliss for Rovers

Blackburn Rovers 3 (Shearer 12, 83, 89) Bolton Wanderers 1 (Green 29) Attendance: 30,419
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The Independent Online
BETWEEN them, Tim Flowers and Alan Shearer foiled an act of grand larceny that would have been the highlight of Bolton's doomed Premiership season. With nine minutes remaining of what was threatening to become the most one-sided of 1-1 draws, Bolton had their second chance of the game, whilst Blackburn's tally was already heading into dozens.

Nathan Blake, still looking for his first goal for the club, spun on the ball and flashed a shot to the far corner. The previously unemployed Flowers went full length to justify his salary.

"He didn't have much to do," said Rovers' manager, Ray Harford, with his usual gift for understatement. "But when he had to, he made a great save."

Keith Branagan, who had been forced to perform heroics in the Bolton net far more often than Flowers, and under what his team-mates believed to be an illegal challenge, failed to take a Lars Bohinen corner, the ball came back off Scott Sellars' shins and Shearer had an open target for his second goal.

It was as if Bolton knew the game was up, because there was little resistance left when Shearer completed his hat-trick in the last minute.

The miracle of the game was that it had taken so long to resolve. Blackburn had already put their visitors into a panic on a couple of occasions before Shearer opened the scoring on 12 minutes, Kevin Gallacher's low cross putting him clear in front of goal. Bolton's equaliser came from their sole opportunity before Flowers' decisive save, Sasa Curcic flashing in a cross and Scott Green leaping to head home from close range.

"It was just a matter of time," said Shearer after his fourth hat-trick of the season and his first goals against the only Premiership side he had not previously punished. "But for the woodwork and good goalkeeping, it would have come long before."

Shearer was booked for the bizarre offence of mimicking a linesman. That minor blemish aside, the Bolton manager, Colin Todd, was stating the obvious when he said: "I've told our strikers when they get the chance to go and watch him." Defenders need to watch him as well, of course, but stopping him tends to be somewhat more difficult.

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