Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Middlesbrough
Frandsen 10, Okocha 21 Ricketts 62
Jaaskelainen, N'Gotty, Whitlow, Bergsson, Gardner, Frandsen, Mendy, Campo, Okocha, Djorkaeff, Pedersen,
Schwarzer, Parnaby, Riggot, Southgate, Boateng, Juninho, Greening, MAccarone, Christie, Wilkshire, Queudrue
Charlton (Djorkaeff 90), Andre (Pedersen 66) , Ballesta, Nolan (Mendy 72), Poole
Downing (Christie 45), Ricketts (Maccarone 45), Doriva (Greening 45), Davies, Crossley
Yellow : Laville 31 90, Campo 60
Red Card: Laville 90
Yellow : Henry 33, Parlour 79
Frandsen Strikes from Range
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Okocha Curls A Free Kick Past Scwarzer
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Backheel Pass
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Textbook Volley
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Dance of Celebration
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Bergsson Sendoff Turns into Survival Party

And so it came down the the final game, as I always suspected it would. And what a prospect it was. The mercurial Okocha against the equally talented Juhninho. A Bolton defense lacking it's most consistent recent performer - Laville as suspended fro the final game - against the team that put five past Spurs the week before. And the prospect of Gudni Bergsson, in his final ever game for Bolton, having to keep out ex Wanderer Michael Ricketts. With Bolton's survival at stake.

In the end Ricketts was on the bench and the crowd contented themselves with booing his name as it read out. Contrast that with the roar when Gudni Bergsson's namecheck was given - I have never heard a noise like that at the Reebok before the game has even started.

And what a start it turned out to be for Wanderers. With the game only just underway, ref Rob Styles (who had a poor game overall) gave a throw to Boro level with their penalty area which was obviously a Bolton throw, even to fans on the top tier of the stand at the other end of the ground. The throw was taken to Boateng, who played the ball square to Greening. Greening failed to notice Frandsen charging in. Frandsen robbed Greening and ran towards the area, unleashing a ferocious drive from the edge of the area that Schwarzer hadn't a hope of stopping. The Reebok erupted. Over in the midlands, Birmingham fans were taunting the West Ham support (The Hammers were the other team in relegation contention) by singing 'one nil to the Wanderers'.

As the irish fella says, it gets better. 10 minutes later Greening again was at fault, nearly cutting Gardner in half just outside the Boro box. Okocha tried a quick flick over the wall to Djorkaeff, but Styles ordered the kick retaken as the wall was not far enough away. With the element of surprise lost, Okocha reverted to plan B and simply curled the ball over the wall past Schwarzer's despairing dive. Two goals up and coasting. Blues fans were singing '2-0 and you're going down', West Ham fans were presumably mortified. Boro struggled their way back into the game. Juhninho tried to emulate Okocha's goal only for Jaaskelainen to claw the ball away. Boro piled forward and Bolton were hard pressed. Yet despite the pressure and tension, Okocha still played like it was a training pitch, even managing to bamboozle the Brazilian at one point. Half time came with the score still at 2-0, and we went for a pie and a pint with confidence that survival was within Wanderers grasp.

At half time Boro made three subs - including Ricketts to a somewhat.. partisan reception. Football pub bores will tell you players come back to haunt teams. Could that happen? It looked possible as Boro, much more forceful than the first half, pushed Wanderers back. Ricketts had two headers over the bar before popping up in the box to score past Jaaskelainen from a low cross. All of sudden it looked much more than possible. News came through West Ham were ahead. Bolton first half confidence and pose was rocked out of them. Then Queudrue was incorrectly booked as Styles fell for a blatant dive by Campo. Things looked very shaky. However, maybe just once luck was on Bolton's side. Queudrue, presumably incensed by what had happened, hacked through Campo from behind by the touchline. Whether it was a straight red card is debatable but that was what Styles gave. Boro's momentum drained away as they struggled with a man down. News came through that Birmingham equalised and then went ahead and The Reebok went into full party mode. The final minutes played out to an almost oblivious crowd, even the news that West Ham had equalised lost in the joy of it. The final whistle went, signaling Bolton's survival. The noise was deafening.

Players congratulated each other as the crowd cheered. The team did a celebratory lap, each player wearing the flag of his nation (including Okocha who had to find a Nigerian flag from the crowd), mocking media assertions made in the week that Bolton's 'foreign mercenaries' wouldn't have the stomach for such a dramatic day and would fade compared to West Ham's British Grit (Do that many sports writers have such blinkered views?). Boro fans stayed to acknowledge Bolton's achievement and earned a deserved round of applause of their own.

In the end, one man deserved the fans applause more than any other; more than the industrious Per Frandsen, who according to Optra made more tackles than any other player this season. More that Djorkaeff or Okocha, extravagently talented footballers who added a work ethic to their skill. More than Jaaskelainen who earned as many points for Bolton as the goalscorers. More than any player who has worn a Wanderers shirt for a very long time. I saw Gudni Bergsson's debut for Bolton, as a substitute in the League Cup Final against Liverpool. It seems like an age ago, a different time. Back in the days of Burnden Park and John McGinlay, of Bruce Rioch and Jason MacAteer as a precocious youngster. In the intervening years I can honestly say I've never seen a disappointing performance from him. Through promotion and relegation he has always been a credit to the club and his nation. He had put off retirement twice, forcing his aging legs to run and tackle and jump in Bolton's cause. To call this man a foreign mercenary, turning up to take a paycheck and not caring for the outcome, is an insult of immense crassness and simply shows the ignorance and vulgarity of the majority of our sporting leader writers. None of them are even fit to clean this man's boots, even now he's hung them up for the last time. And so, as the Wanderers fans said goodbye, ending an era where he was a symbol of continuity in a usually crazy football world, I think we all wish him nothing but happiness in his new life and career. If he makes as good and dedicated a lawyer as he was a footballer, his services are going to be in huge demand. Goodbye Gudni, and thanks from us all.