By William Kirkpatrick
Miraculously – and thanks to some final day heroics - Bolton Wanderers managed to avoid being relegated back to League One, at the expense of Barnsley and Burton Albion.
Needing a win, and for other results to go their way, Bolton found themselves 2-1 down to Nottingham Forrest, who had nothing to play for, with ten minutes remaining.
David Wheater scored his only goal of the season with a deflected effort with four minutes remaining to level the scores and the Whites needed less than two minutes to send the Macron into jubilation as Aaron Wilbraham connected with an Adam Le Fondre cross to score the winner.
Le Fondre being absent from the starting eleven raised eyebrows to most fans who had been promised an attacking team. However, two assists and a goal from the bench made amends, and he was a key figure in Bolton’s survival.
As the full-time whistle blew, fans flooded the pitch, relieved as they managed to retain their status in the Championship, following defeats elsewhere for Burton and Barnsley.
After failing to win in the league until October, many fans were discontent – expecting to be sent back down after their impressive promotion campaign the season before.
The loss of Jay Spearing and the tenacious grit he brought to the midfield left Bolton feeling empty.
The loss of Gary Madine in January was a huge blow to the team, after the Whites seemingly hit a run of form.
Madine’s poor performances for Cardiff after the change look to have softened the impact of his loss, but had Wanderers been relegated, critics would have pointed fingers.
A Bolton fan in October would have been sceptical that the Wanderers would have been able to put up a fight for survival, let alone stay in the division. Praise must go to the players and manager for being able to turn around such a bleak start.
If Wanderers are able to buy a striker in the summer, they will have a good opportunity to establish themselves as a mid-table side next season.
The number of players out of contract at the end of this campaign is also a worry for the future. Although most look to be re-signing, Bolton may have to look to their impressive academy for depth next season.