4 games that made Wolves versus Bolton an unlikely grudge match


Wolves face
Bolton at the Macron Stadium in the sixth game of the season this weekend.

But despite 90 miles between the pair, this fixture is no stranger to bad blood and has had as many heated exchanges as any local derby.

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It started 20 years ago with the two Wanderers going for promotion and continued years after with both aiming for Premier League survival.

High stake matches, shocking referee decisions, a bust up with Lofty the Lion and the return of a cheating former player have all made this a hostile fixture..

With that in mind, here’s four matches that made Wolves versus Bolton an unlikely grudge match.

Bolton v Wolves, May 1995  

The Play-Off semi-final second leg.

Wolves were taking a 2-1 lead to Bolton Wanderers’ Burnden Park as they chased Sir Jack’s dream of Premier League football.

On that night John McGinlay would become a hate figure for Wolves fans and celebrated by Trotters’ supporters after delivering a punch to David Kelly which somehow escaped a red card.

To make matters worse, McGinlay scored in extra time sending the Lancashire side to Wembley and Wolves facing another year of Division One football.

Bolton went on to win in the final and those in old gold and black could only look on at what might had been if McGinlay had been giving his marching orders that balmy summer’s night up north.

Bolton v Wolves, January 1997


Bolton had survived just one year in the Premier League and Wolves returned to the scene of their play-off heart ache with the smell of revenge in their nostrils.

The game was only a few minutes old when Bolton had a penalty shout turned down and The Whites’ John Sheridan remonstrated with the referee.

He was pulled back by Mark Venus and a blow was struck. This kicked-off a 21-man brawl between the two sides, Steve Bull received a couple of upper cuts and Iwan Roberts was right in the thick of things along with Northern Irish defender Gerry Taggart.

Amazingly not a single yellow card was handed out. In fact, it didn’t even get mentioned in the referee’s match report with the official claiming he didn’t see it.

Which makes the incident with Bolton mascot Lofty The Lion that day even more bizarre. Poor old Lofty was reported to the FA for allegedly goading Wolves fans who in turn aimed missiles at him including a meat pie.

It was described by The Trotters as ‘sour grapes’ from Wolves fans, perhaps that’s the case as they lost the game 3-0.

Wolves v Bolton, April 2004  

Wolves and Bolton met at Molineux with both striving for Premier League survival.

Henrik Pedersen gave the visitors the lead before Henri Camara equalised minutes later by sticking one in the top bin.

But once more this was controversial game with the referee taking centre stage.

Step forward Uriah Rennie.

The Yorkshireman’s decision making in the game was so bad he faced suspension from Premier League and was called before the Premier League manager Keith Hackett for investigation.

He was lambasted by manager Dave Jones who cited two penalty decisions in particular but it was a missed elbow on Paul Butler by Kevin Davies (who isn’t shy to flail the odd elbow) which caused further outrage with those in old gold and black calling for a red card.

And in typical Wolves luck the man who should have been given his marching orders was the man who scored the winner, sending Wolves to the bottom of the table in a 2-1 defeat.

Wolves v Bolton, May 2012

It’s seems a recurring theme but when Wolves meet Bolton poor refereeing isn’t far away and nine times out of 10 it’s Wolves on the end of it.
Once more these two founding members of the Football League were locked in a relegation battle in the top tier of English football.

Wolves took a 1-0 lead through flying winger Michael Kightly which had those around Molineux believing they could seal a much needed win as relegation loomed over them.

However 10 minutes after Wolves went ahead came the game’s turning point.

Mark Davies, the tricky midfielder from Willenhall who was sold by Wolves to Bolton, dribbled into the box and hit the deck like a hostage in a bank robbery.

The crowd called a blatant dive by Davies over the outstretched leg of Roger Johnson but, yep, you guessed it, the penalty was awarded and scored and it set Bolton on the road to a 3-2 victory.

Molineux was baying for Davies’ blood and while he escaped with three points the local boy was probably more relieved to escape with his life.

By Adam Thompson


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