Ahead of what will surely be a hard-fought clash between Bolton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers at the Reebok Stadium, much of the buildup has been centered around the Clint Hill "ghost goal" when the two sides last met at Bolton's home ground. Let's set the scene.
It was a bright day in early March with Wanderers looking for any point they could get their hands on in a bid to stave off relegation to the Championship. The Trotters were coming off four straight losses in the league, getting no points from matches against Norwich City, Wigan Athletic, Chelsea, and Manchester City. Their opponents, Queens Park Rangers, were in similarly dire straits, also battling the drop. The hotly contested affair had a very back-and-forth opening 20 minutes with QPR looking like they would make the breakthrough with Bobby Zamora hitting the crossbar just two minutes before controversy struck.
On 19 minutes, Joey Barton swung a free kick into the box from distance on QPR's right flank. One of the Rangers players headed the ball back across the face of goal with Darren Pratley meeting it. The Bolton man's header hit off of Djibril Cisse, who lunged in to get another stab at it. Pratley did the same and the ball ricocheted out of bounds, first going off of Cisse's foot, into Pratley's leg, and (what looked like from multiple angles) back into Cisse before going behind. QPR were awarded the corner and that is when it really kicked off.
Joey Barton was the man to take and his inswinging corner found the head of an onrushing Clint Hill. The effort was well-directed at goal but Adam Bogdan did very well to stop it before it hit the back of the net. That was all well and good for everyone but the Queens Park Rangers players and fans, who were beyond adamant that the ball had crossed the goal line.
Replays after the fact showed that the ball had indeed gone over the line and not just by a small margin. It was as clear as it could get.Well, it was clear on slow motion video. With the speed at which the goal happened, it was impossible to tell from the referee's angle and the linesman may have been screened, but, as it happened, it looked as though Adam Bogdan had pulled out a brilliant save.
Queens Park Rangers were handed a make-up decision shortly after the halftime break (even if their support chooses to forget that). With Bolton a goal to the good through Darren Pratley's header (by way of a Tim Ream cross on the left wing), QPR had to find an equalizer. It came through Djibril Cisse, who had wandered into an offside position. The referee didn't notice and the striker was clean through to equalize for Ranger. From that point on, the Hoops took the initiative but could not find the winner. That honor went to late substitute, Ivan Klasnic, who showed just why he had earned a reputation as the fox in the box.