Bolton Wanderers are down, undone by events elsewhere as much as their attempts to stay up by beating Stoke City. Queens Park Rangers taking anything from Manchester City was always going to be bad news for the visitors' attempt to stay in the Premier League but Bolton had put themselves into a winning position before news came through of the Rangers revival. Concentration appeared to waver from that point on and Jon Walters' penalty earned Stoke a draw they probably deserved on an eventful and dramatic final afternoon.
Bolton looked nervous in the opening stages and Peter Crouch went close and Ricardo Fuller and Matthew Etherington saw shots saved in the first 11 minutes, so the visitors could hardly complain at going behind a minute later, even if there was considerable debate over the legality of the goal.
Walters did not exactly bundle Adam Bogdan into the back of his net in the manner once favoured by Nat Lofthouse but he appeared to play the goalkeeper rather than the ball from Etherington's right-wing cross, with the result that the Hungarian was unable to make a clean catch and the ball ended up in the back of the net. Neither Bogdan nor Zat Knight dealt with the cross as effectively as he might have, though it still seemed to be a foul on the goalkeeper. Chris Foy did not see it that way and, after checking with his linesman that Walters had remained onside, the referee awarded the goal.
Stoke could have added to their lead through Crouch and Walters before the interval but Bolton had their moments too, Kevin Davies heading against the bar and Ivan Klasnic bringing a fingertip save from Thomas Sorensen. Klasnic was involved in the attack that brought Bolton their equaliser, though the move appeared to have been safely neutralised until Robert Huth drove his attempted clearance straight at Mark Davies and saw the ricochet beat Sorensen before the goalkeeper could react.
Remarkably there was still time for another first-half goal and it was another freakish one, with Kevin Davies crossing from the right for Klasnic and Sorensen waving the ball into his net at the near post. So a first half that contained three of the season's more bizarre goals ended with Bolton in front, the final five minutes having turned everything that went before on its head.
Bolton's joy in its turn was curtailed by news of Djbril Cissé's equaliser at the Etihad, which led to taunts of "You're not singing any more" from the Boothen End. The Bolton fans in the opposite stand duly went quiet, though soon perked up at the news of Joey Barton's dismissal. What was taking place on the Britannia pitch thus became something of an irrelevance, though in truth not that much was happening until Crouch played in Etherington and the winger shot too high when he could have equalised.
Then news that QPR had taken the lead at City filtered through and even the comedy convicts with the Great Escape banner at the Bolton end fell deathly quiet. As long as Bolton led their supporters could at least hope that City might still come to their rescue but that possibility disappeared when Bogdan brought down Crouch to enable Walters to bring the scores level from the spot. Further news from the Etihad was not required, however encouraging it might have been a few minutes earlier.
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image: © Matthew Wilkinson