FLASHBACK: Bolton Wanderers v. Everton and the goal that never was

Chris Brunskill

Wanderers v Everton, September 1997, and the greatest injustice in the history of football

Having witnessed the chaos caused by the controversy in the League Cup game between Bolton Wanderers' divisional rivals Yeovil and Birmingham City, I was reminded of our own experiences with the injustices of the modern game - the infamous "goal that never was".

Picture the scene, Bolton Wanderers, newly promoted from the First Division were in their inaugural season in the brand new Reebok Stadium. It was September 1997 and the first game at the new ground saw the Whites entertain Everton, who at that point were managed by Howard Kendall and who featured a squad packed with recognisable names such as Neville Southall, Duncan Ferguson and future Wanderers Gareth Farrelly and Gary Speed.

Wanderers had started the season reasonably well; an opening day 1-0 away win to Southampton came via a Nathan Blake goal, that was followed by a 2-2 draw against Coventry, Blake again with the goals, before a 1-2 away defeat to Barnsley which saw new signing Peter Beardsley open his account for the club. Bolton had begun the season with three consecutive away fixtures as the club rushed to get their new stadium finished. The paint on the walls was still wet as Everton arrived in town.

A crowd of 23,131 saw a fairly turgid 0-0 draw, though the game was not wholly without incident. New £2.5m record signing from Newcastle United, Robbie Elliott, broke his left leg following a stern challenge from Everton midfielder Tony Thomas. This injury would set Elliott back a whole year. However, the most (in)famous moment arrived later in the game.

Bolton defender Gerry Taggart rose to meet a corner from Alan Thompson and powered a header to towards goal....the header beat the melee of players in the six yard box....the header beat the despairing dive of Neville Southall......the header beat Terry Phelan who was covering the post! Bolton fans rejoiced as the opening goal in the new stadium was scored!

But no! Referee Steve Lodge was indicating a goal! The linesman was unmoved! The Bolton players went crackers but the goal was NOT given! The whole stadium was in uproar but the decision was made and the game continued!

Following on from this mega injustice, Bolton saw out the draw and then went on to struggle through the rest of the season. A return of just nine wins in 37 games left us with a tough task away at Chelsea in the final game in May 1998. Interestingly enough, Everton suffered a similar season of struggle, and themselves were battling against relegation. Everton faced Coventry City at Goodison Park needing to better Bolton Wanderers' result against Chelsea in order to survive.

Wanderers lost 0-2 to Chelsea, who scored both goals in the final ten minutes through Gianluca Vialli and Jody Morris, whilst Everton drew 1-1 with Coventry to survive on goal difference. The goal was scored by Gareth Farrelly who would join Wanderers himself in 1999.

Bolton were relegated on goal difference.

It was impossible not to look back at the events of 1st September 1997 and not come to the conclusion that a grave injustice had occurred and that referee Steve Lodge and his team of officials had between them contributed to Wanderers' relegation and near financial meltdown over the coming seasons. It was only with the appointment of legendary manager Sam Allardyce that halted the decline and would eventually see Bolton Wanderers return to the big time.

Line-Ups

Bolton Wanderers:

Keith Branagan, Robbie Elliott (Steve McAnespie 61), Gudni Bergsson, Jimmy Phillips, Gerry Taggart, Jamie Pollock, Scott Sellars, Per Frandsen (Michael Johansen 78), Alan Thompson, , Peter Beardsley (John McGinlay 81), Nathan Blake

EVERTON:

Southall, Thomas (Hinchcliffe 67), Phelan, Williamson, Watson (Short 45), Bilic, Stuart, Barmby (Branch 87), Ferguson, Speed, Oster.

Pos

Team

Pld

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts

1

Arsenal (C)

38

23

9

6

68

33

+35

78

2

Manchester United

38

23

8

7

73

26

+47

77

3

Liverpool

38

18

11

9

68

42

+26

65

4

Chelsea

38

20

3

15

71

43

+28

63

5

Leeds United

38

17

8

13

57

46

+11

59

6

Blackburn Rovers

38

16

10

12

57

52

+5

58

7

Aston Villa

38

17

6

15

49

48

+1

57

8

West Ham United

38

16

8

14

56

57

-1

56

9

Derby County

38

16

7

15

52

49

+3

55

10

Leicester City

38

13

14

11

51

41

+10

53

11

Coventry City

38

12

16

10

46

44

+2

52

12

Southampton

38

14

6

18

50

55

-5

48

13

Newcastle United

38

11

11

16

35

44

-9

44

14

Tottenham Hotspur

38

11

11

16

44

56

-12

44

15

Wimbledon

38

10

14

14

34

46

-12

44

16

Sheffield Wednesday

38

12

8

18

52

67

-15

44

17

Everton

38

9

13

16

41

56

-15

40

18

Bolton Wanderers (R)

38

9

13

16

41

61

-20

40

19

Barnsley (R)

38

10

5

23

37

82

-45

35

20

Crystal Palace (R)

38

8

9

21

37

71

-34

33

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