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Tingly Ball Games: A look back at how Bolton Wanderers fare under pressure

The heat is on

Bolton Wanderers v Middlesbrough Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With the thought of Sunday’s decisive game already making my balls tingle, let’s look at how Bolton have fared in other games that have made my balls tingle.

Middlesbrough (H) 11th May 2003

Big Sam’s Bolton needed three points on the final day of the season at home against Boro to guarantee a third successive season in the Premiership with West Ham level on points with Wanderers but 6 goals less goal difference.

Early nerves were settled 11 minutes in when Per Frandsen dispossessed Jonathan Greening deep in the Boro half and smashed it past Mark Schwarzer from the edge of the box. Not long after Greening was involved in another Wanderers goal, his awful challenge on Ricardo Gardner gave Jay Jay Okocha a sight of goal from the edge of the penalty area.

The African player of the year curled the ball over the wall and into the top corner to give Wanderers a two goal lead and one foot in the door on Premiership survival. Steve McClaren made three changes at half-time, bringing on ex-Bolton hero Michael Ricketts who had scored 7 for the whites that season, before moving to Boro for £3.5m in the January transfer window.

Ricketts hadn’t been able to emulate his goal scoring form on Teesside and hadn’t scored a single goal following his move.

But that changed 15 minutes into the second half when he converted Stuart Parnaby’s cross from an offside position and celebrated by cupping his ears to the Wanderers fans. From a position of comfort, Bolton were suddenly nervous. But Allardyce's side kept their cool, even when Boro were losing theirs.

Defender Franck Quedrue, who had just received a booking after a classic Ivan Campo dive, sought revenge on the ex-Madrid man with a late lunge on Campo seconds later, which led to him being shown a straight red from the referee.

This eased the pressure on the whites, and with news of West Ham struggling against Birmingham at St Andrews, Bolton strolled to Premiership survival.

Blackpool (H) 4th May 2013

Dougie Freedman’s side started the day in the last play-off place, level on points with Nottingham Forest and two points ahead of Leicester City after an incredible run that saw Bolton lose only three of their last 17 games.

Forest and Leicester faced each other on the last day at the City ground. Freedman sprung a surprise in the starting line up with Rob Hall making his first start of the season in such a crucial game.

An early Forest goal made for a nervous start to the game at the Reebok which was magnified when Matt Phillips found the top corner from a tight angle. With results not going their way, Wanderers fans thought their play-off dream was over when Ludovic Sylvestre volleyed in Neal Eardley’s cross to give Blackpool a two goal lead.

However, a crazy couple of minutes just before half-time looked to have put Bolton back in the play off picture. First, Eagles halved the deficit with a fine strike from the edge of the area which flew into the top corner after he was picked out by Marcos Alonso, then Davies levelled as his deflected shot flew beyond a wrong-footed Matt Gilks.

With confidence high after the two quick fire goals, Wanderers dominated the second half but couldn’t find a goal despite good chances falling to Chung-Yong Lee and Tom Eaves.

With Forest and Leicester drawing 1-1 a point would have been enough to see Wanderers into the play offs but a 90th minute winner by Anthony Knockaert at the City ground spelt heartbreak for Bolton as Leicester climbed above them into sixth place on goal difference.

Stoke City (A) 13th May 2012

Bolton’s 11-year stay in the top flight was hanging by a thread on the last day of 12/13 season.

Owen Coyle’s Wanderers came into the game in 18th two points behind QPR who played Manchester City away. Chris Foy gave Stoke the lead when he allowed Jonathan Walters to charge at Adam Bogdan and knock both him and the ball into the net even though the Hungarian international had the ball in both hands.

It still riles me watching that goal back now, how Chris Foy got no punishment for how poorly he performed in such an important game is beyond me. It also made me fucking hate Walters.

Anyway, Bolton battled back and things looked to have turned in their favour just before half-time courtesy of two bizarre goals.

A long goal kick from Bogdan was allowed to reach the Stoke box before Andy Wilkinson struck his attempted clearance straight at Mark Davies and the ball ricocheted into the net past Sorensen equalise for Wanderers. Then, a serious misjudgement from the Stoke keeper allowed Kevin Davies's cross from the right to sneak past him at the near post and put Wanderers in front.

Around the same time, Pablo Zabaleta had given Manchester City the lead over QPR to temporarily lift Bolton out of the drop zone. But then Chris Foy equalised for Stoke City pointing to the spot when Peter Crouch had fallen over his own stilt legs, allowing fat scouser Walters to score past his old side for the second time.

Two goals for QPR made survival look very unlikely and after Tim Ream put a free header straight at Sorensen in the dying moments, hope was lost and Wanderers were relegated. What made the day even worse is that Manchester City created probably the most famous Premier League moment in history, scoring two goals in added time to beat QPR and win the Premier League.

This meant if Bolton had won the AGUEROOOOOOOOO moment would have kept us up. Imagine that. Coyle out. (Couldn’t find highlights anywhere, here’s Stoke’s first scandalous goal.)

Middlesbrough - Millennium Stadium 29th February 2004

Allardyce's whites had made it to the final of the Carling Cup after a brilliant cup run that saw us win enthralling games against Liverpool at Anfield and a 5-2 win against Aston Villa at the Reebok. A nightmare start saw Wanderers 2 goals down in the opening 7 minutes.

A tap-in by Joseph-Desire Job after a Boudewijn Zenden cross gave Boro the lead followed by a Zenden penalty after Emerson Thome had brought down Job.

It could have been three when Thome nearly steered an attempted clearance into his own net. Bolton got one back though through super Kevin Davies when he received the ball on the right-hand side and looked to have chosen the wrong option in attempting a shot from an acute angle.

The striker failed to connect cleanly with the shot but Schwarzer inexplicably allowed the ball to squirm inside his near post.

Wanderers nearly equalised before half time through Per Frandsen, his left footed shot from just outside the area beat Schwarzer but bounced back against the post, with Youri Djorkeff unable to convert the rebound. In the dying stages Mendieta was denied a third by a last-ditch block from Thome and at the other end, Ugo Ehiogu did likewise to deny Stelios Giannakopoulos an equaliser.

Stoke City- Wembley 17th April 2011

We lost 5-0 in an FA Cup semi final at Wembley. Fat Walters got a few, Etherington, Huth and Jones. The end.

In recent history, Wanderers haven't fared very well when it comes to high pressured games. Sunday’s game against Peterborough is very much a tingly ball game where heroes and villains can be made.

I’m expecting Peterborough to come to the Macron and try and frustrate us but we need to support the boys in these types of games throughout, however frustrating and ugly the football may be.

Let’s hope heroes are made and we’re all on the pitch snogging Wheaters’ chin come 2 pm. Come on you whites!