Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Blackburn Rovers
Okocha 11
Short 90
Jaaskelainen, Barness, Charlton, Bergsson, Campo, Warhurst, Frandsen, Okocha, Gardner, Djorkaeff, Pedersen
Friedel, Neill, Short, Taylor, McEveley, Thompson, Flitcreoft, Dunne, Duff, Yorke, Cole
Livesey, Tofting (Okocha 75), Ricketts (Gardner 54), Nolan (Warhurst 50), Poole
Kelly, Ostenstad, Johansson (McEveley 52), Tugay (Dunne 11), Todd
Yellow : Djorkaeff 72, Frandsen 90
Yellow : Thompson 40, Tugay 77
Jayjay Okocha's Goal

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I tell you, anyone who leaves the Reeebok before the final whistle is a fool...

Fans welcomed back Gudni Bergsson from injury and therefore a more stable and less panicy defense, or so we thought. As ity happened the game staarted at the other end of the pitch with Bolton pressing from the off. Djorkaeff put Bolton's first chance over the bar from 12 yards out though. The next chance again went Bolton's way and this one counted. Frranmdsen lofted a ball into the box, Pedersen neatly headed it down and Okocha ssliced the ball off the outside of his foot across Friedel and in off the far post. An excellent goal and an excellent start for Wanderers. Bolton failed to build on their early promise however, some wayward finishing from Djorkaeff and Gardner being the main culprits. David Dunne had started but was obviously not fully fit and was subbed after only 10 minutes. His replacement by Tugay gave Blackburn added stability but less options going forward and Bolton's rearguard in fact had a relatively comfortable time of it. As half time arrived Bolton looked well on top and more likely to extend their lead than Blackburn were to draw level.

Graeme Souness must have stripped the pain off the walls of the away dressing room at half time though, because the seccond half was much different. Whether due to Blackburns increased effort or Bolton's habit of sitting back on a lead led to the shift in momentum I'm not sure, but the second half belonged to Blackburn much as the first half had to Bolton. Dwight Yorke had two very good chances to score but failed - hitting the bar with the second effort - and Thompson went inches wide. At the other end Bolton were spurning chances to make the game safe, one effort rolling agonisingly along the goal line before drifting out and DJorkaeff having a shot saved by Friedel on the counter attack that a player of his class should surely have converted. As the clock ticked down the ball wasa spending virtually all it's time in the Bolton half, as was every player on the pitch other than Brad Friedel. Then into an absorbing match stepped referee Neale Barry.

Now I've moaned about the quality of premiership referees before. As has just about every manager in the league, most of the players, Des Lynam, Gabby Yorath and every other Tom, Dick and Ally. But yet again poor refereeing contributed to Wanderers losing points. Not only had Barry declined to give what seemed a cast iron penalty to Bolton when Charlton went down in the Rovers area - some you get, some you don't - he somehow managed to find four minutes of injury time at the end. Which was played. On 95 minutes and thirty seconds (by my watch) Yorke crossed into the Bolton box and the ball was bundled in by Craig Short. Barry gave a goal. 100 seconds or so after the game was supposed to have finished. There were no substitutions in injury time. As far as I remember, there were no stoppages of play to speak of either. Where had this extra time come from? Why had Barry played a significant period longer than the allotted injury time (which, you must remember, he had decided on the extent of) and thereby allowed Blackburn more opportunities to equalise, one of which they duly took?

Let me make one thing clear - I have no criticism of Blackburn in this. They played until the final whistle, and deserve credit and even a point for their efforts in the second half. But the fact is that if the ref had played the added time he decided was to be played, Bolton would have won this game. I am dismayed at Bolton's inability to score the crucial second goal. I am dismayed at how they lost the initiative in the second half. But I am also dismayed that the good performance (particularly in the first half) that they did produce was rendered almost meaningless by a piece of at best incompetent officiating. It seems to me more or less everyone has given up criticising referees, because little or nothing seems to be improving. However, I think it is important that we fans, who pay to watch teams compete fairly and skilfully, should protest at having our enjoyment and their efforts ruined by a set of officials who consistently seem more interested in being the centre of attention than actually getting on with their jobs in a professional and conciencious way.