Bolton presented an honor guard for the club from Wales before this match, and the home side had put posters up around the ground welcoming Wanderers supporters and wishing them luck in the promotion battle. It was class all around from the two sides. Until kickoff anyway. After kickoff the class was not spread around as evenly. Most of it was displayed by Cardiff City.
Adam Bogdan had an eventful day in goal, and it started less than a minute after kick off. Craig Conway set up Jordon Mutch at the edge of the six yard box, and it looked very much like Bolton were about to be down a goal. But Bogdan dove low and to his right, making an outstanding save.
This was a sign of things to come. Cardiff were bossing possession, creating chances, and generally looking like the champions that they are. Bolton were pinned back for large stretches. Marvin Sordell, chosen by Dougie Freedman to start as a lone striker, was isolated and ineffective. Then Sam Ricketts found a little space on the right side. He kept going, nearly lost the ball for a goal kick, but eventually managed to get past his man. He went straight into the box, putting pressure on the defense, and then the pass. It was a neat little ball to a late breaking Chris Eagles, who put it away to give Bolton the lead very much against the run of play.
After the goal Cardiff continued to look the better side, although Bolton's defending was fairly strong. About 15 minutes after scoring, the away side should have doubled their lead. A Trotters clearance fell to Eagles in loads of space on the left side. He broke at pace, running a good 50 yards and catching the home side upfield. A good looking cross came in towards Sordell, who either played an excellent dummy, or an even better flick on. Either way, the ball fell at the feat of a breaking Pratley, who hit a solid shot towards goal. Some on Twitter thought the shot was weak. Others thought the keeper made a brilliant save. Either way, the score remained 1-0 at halftime.
The second half was more of the same. Cardiff dominated, and Bolton supporters spent just as much time checking other scores as watching their own match. 20 minutes in, Cardiff brought Tommy Smith and Craig Noone off the bench. The latter proved to be a threat almost immediately. He made a great run on the right and teed up Smith. The goal was gaping and he went for the tap in. Miraculously, Bogdan bounded across the goalmouth and made a shocking save. He looked like a candidate for Man of the Match at this point.
That candidacy only lasted about three minutes. Cardiff were breaking towards goal yet again and Josh Vela gave away a free kick just outside of the box. Noone stepped up and put it in the bottom corner. It was a decent enough free kick, but most would have expected Bogdan to save it.
Bolton introduced Craig Davies for Sordell, and he had one good chance, on a turn from about 15 yards. Unfortunately, it was a bit wide. Bolton's best chance to equalize was when Cardiff's central defender played a very slow back pass, and Pratley pounced. Alas, the keeper was well aware, and managed to barely clear it for a throw.
Stu Holden was given a few minutes (literally) in his return to action, but was not able to have any effect. Cardiff were ready to collect their trophy. On the bright side for Bolton, other results went Wanderers' way, and the club still control their own destiny going into the final weekend. Beat Blackpool at home, and the Trotters are in the playoffs.