Bolton earn vital victory against fellow strugglers Millwall
Pawel Olkowski and Gary O’Neil scored second-half goals as Bolton ended a rollercoaster week with a 2-1 Sky Bet Championship victory over FA Cup quarter-finalists Millwall.
Phil Parkinson’s Wanderers stay in the relegation zone after only a second win in 11 games.
And after coasting towards three vital points they made life hard by conceding an 87th-minute goal to Lions top scorer Lee Gregory.
But with Ken Anderson’s controversial reign as chairman coming to an end and a takeover on the horizon, this victory could just be the catalyst for a great escape for a second successive season.
Events in the week leading up to the game had put the contest in doubt because of unpaid wages to ground staff and stewards.
Given the poor quality for the opening period, plenty inside the University of Bolton Stadium might have wondered if the efforts had been worthwhile.
And while ground staff and stewards eventually received payment Bolton players kicked-off still without receipt of February’s wages.
However, chairman Anderson has promised the money will be paid on Monday if a protracted takeover has not happened.
But any current personal issues pale into insignificance compared to the darkest day in the club’s history.
So Bolton fans remembered the 73rd anniversary of the Burnden Park disaster when 33 spectators lost their lives during a game between Wanderers and Stoke.
And in the 33rd minute, the home fans stood in tribute to the supporters who died in one of Britain’s greatest football tragedies.
Manager Parkinson, starting a two-game touchline ban following an outburst during a 2-1 defeat at Leeds, watched this relegation scrap from the television gantry.
Wanderers’ chances were not helped either by suspensions for David Wheater, Craig Noone and Jason Lowe.
If the first half was instantly forgettable, Wanderers ensured the second was of far higher quality.
Callum Connolly picked out Olkowski three minutes after the re-start and the Polish full-back cut the ball back onto his left foot and fired into the bottom corner.
Crucially for Bolton, Joe Williams cleared off the line from Jake Cooper after the home defence were caught out by Shane Ferguson’s inswinging corner.
And three minutes later Bolton doubled their advantage. The lowest scorers in the Championship have not got much of a catalogue this season but O’Neil’s strike is a goal of the season contender.
Freed by Williams’ pass, the veteran midfielder charged forward from halfway, checked his run inside the area before angling a right foot effort into the bottom corner of Jordan Archer’s net.
Millwall were not finished and Ben Thompson’s long-range effort was arrowing into the bottom corner before keeper Remi Matthews intervened.
A comeback looked on when Gregory flicked in his eighth Championship goal of the season. Tom Elliott also headed onto the roof of the net but Bolton held on.