Bolton bid farewell with fitting victory

Football: Bolton Wanderers 4 Charlton Athletic 1

Alan Nixon
Friday 25 April 1997 23:02

It was enough to make a Lion cry. The emotional farewell to Burnden Park was all too much for Nat Lofthouse to bear.

The most famous name in Bolton's sometimes illustrious history, an FA Cup winner in 1958 and dubbed the Lion of Vienna for his finest England hour, found the charge of goodwill and personal memories of the old ground beyond even his stiff upper lip.

Many of Lofthouse's colleagues from that team of 39 years ago were also seen to dab their battle-hardened features on a night when one of the game's most celebrated grounds shut its doors for the final time.

In 102 years of Burnden there can have been few occasions when nostalgia merged so successfully with present triumph. The First Division trophy was handed over to the current heroes, who were given their own merited plaudits.

Such is the feeling for the rickety old stadium that the terraces that have outlived their prime and the stands that scarcely seem to have two straight lines between them throbbed with the faithful.

The streets outside were thronged with the different generations long before kick-off, with the pie shops and pubs on the verge of mourning at the loss of their ready-made trade when the supporters move out to plush Horwich. Somehow the Reebok Stadium, the club's new pounds 30m ground, will not be quite the same.

Among the many celebrities in the stand were Kenneth Wolstenholme, a lifelong Bolton fan. However, pride of place went to the 40 or so former players who helped Wanderers scale their greatest heights. Legendary figures like Eddie Hopkinson and Roy Banks rubbed shoulders with latter-day idols like Andy Walker and Alan Stubbs as they were presented to the crowd.

The game was always going to be an anti-climax, despite the efforts of folk heroes like John McGinlay, who took a pain-killing injection to play at the possible sacrifice of a place in Scotland's squad to play Sweden next week.

Alan Thompson almost gave Bolton the perfect start, but Richard Rufus headed his early chip off the line. Charlton were clearly determined not to be swept aside by the wave of emotion and silenced the celebrations with a stunning 25-yard shot from Mark Kinsella that flew into the top corner.

Within seconds of the interval, however, Bolton were back in the game as Thompson's deflected shot from 25 yards went into the net.

Burnden Park erupted in the 64th minute when Gerry Taggart guided home a Scott Sellars cross and two goals by McGinlay in the last two minutes kept Bolton on course to reach 100 goals and 100 points in what has been a memorable campaign. Two goals and a victory away to Tranmere in the final match of the season a week tomorrow will see both targets achieved.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Branagan; Bergsson, Fairclough, Taggart, Phillips; Johansen (Sheridan, 80), Frandsen, Thompson, Sellars; McGinlay, Blake (Paatelainen, 88). Substitute not used: McAnespie.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Petterson; Robinson, Rufus, Balmer, Barness; Lisbie (Leaburn, 66), Kinsella, O'Connell, Mortimer (Nicholls, 66); Allen, Bright. Substitute not used: Chapple.

Referee: K Lynch (Derbyshire).

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