Bolton ended their run of poor form against 10 man Port Vale and would have been promoted had Kyle Dempsey not scored a 92nd minute winner for Fleetwood down at Gillingham. Having not scored in 4 games, David Wheater and Gary Madine gave Bolton a win that puts them within a point of promotion.
That Madine was starting had already given the 4,500 Bolton fans a lift before the match had begun though the other injury doubt, Darren Pratley, was replaced by Jem Karacan. Parky had made the changes he had been asked to make, it was down to the players to do their bit.
The game started understandably nervously from both sides given what was at stake: promotion and survival. Ryan Taylor and former Bolton winger, Chris Eagles, looked lively and though Andrew Taylor could deal with the threat it meant that Vale were always in the game.
It was a first half of few real chances with Madine firing over and Josh Vela fizzing a long range effort narrowly wide but Bolton looked as though they were in control. They certainly were after 32 minutes as Vale target man Rigino Cicilia ridiculously handled the ball in the Bolton penalty box after being booked and was sent off. Cue celebration mixed with trepidation as the fans remembered Bolton's poor record against 10 men this season.
The first half passed by with little incident except the cheers from the Bolton faithful upon hearing that Gillingham had taken the lead at Fleetwood. During half-time there was no sign of Chris Long, fuelling talk that he would replace Madine (who had been feeling his shoulder all half). The big man stayed on, however.
Wanderers could have been behind at the start of the half as Vale had two great chances in succession, the second of which a close range header that Mark Howard gratefully clutched to his chest. However, Bolton rallied with Filipe Morais taking control of the game and firing cross after cross into the box. The Whites were playing more balls over the top of the Vale defence with Karacan getting in behind on more than one occasion.
However it wasn't until he was brought off and replaced by James Henry that Bolton really started to get going. Taylor fed Madine for a tap-in which he conspired to miss after Morais had crossed for Le Fondre only for him be denied. Then Alfie went down under a heavy challenge from Vale's Andre Bikey and Morais had a great opportunity to set up a goal.
He did just that.
Big David Wheater got his head to the ball and sent the Wanderers fans into delirium. The players looked overjoyed as well and it would have been a great moment (given that Gillingham were winning 2-1 against Fleetwood) had it not started a pitch invasion from both sets of fans. Vale supporters took exception to the celebrations and proceeded to throw bottles, coins and lighters at the Bolton fans. The players left the pitch and it took a huge number of police to restore order. Play resumed at 0-1 and 2-2 at Gillingham.
The game was disjointed, understandably, after the delay but moments after we heard news of Fleetwood's winner Morais won a challenge down the right and fed Madine to sweep in a nerve settling second. The goal was met with a slightly subdued reaction due to the police presence but the relief that Bolton had settled it was palpable.
It wasn't a cruise to victory as Howard almost dropped a tame long range drive into the net with 10 minutes to go but that was the last action of the game. Bolton had done what they needed to do and despite the ugly scenes I am very pleased I was there. Though we still require a point many of us went into this game very worried and it is fantastic that we came through it.
Bolton have almost done it but one can't help but feel disappointed that it isn't already settled. Fingers crossed they do the business. COYWM