Division One Play Off Final - Wembley Stadium
Monday 29 May 1995

READING 3 Bolton Wanderers 4 (After Extra Time)

Half time: Bolton 0 Reading 2
Full time: Bolton 2 Reading 2 (90 minutes)

Reading Scorers: Nogan 4, Williams 12, Quinn 119.
Bolton Scorers: Coyle 75, De Freitas 86, 118, Paatelainen 105.

Bolton: Branagan, Green, Phillips, McAteer, Bergsson, Stubbs, McDonald (De Freitas 46), Coyle, Paatelainen, McGinlay, Thompson.
Subs Not Used: Dreyer, Shilton. Booked: McAteer, Stubbs, Paatelainen.

Reading: Hislop, Bernal (Hopkins 67), Osborn, Wdowczyk, Williams, McPherson, Gilkes, Gooding, Nogan (Quinn 62), Lovell, Taylor.
Subs Not Used: Sheppard.
Booked: Wdowczyk, Williams, Gooding.

Bolton promoted to Premiership.
Att: 64,107
Ref: P Foakes (Clacton-on-Sea).

It all so nearly lived up to all of our wildest dreams. Reading were just four minutes away from the Premiership when Boltons 86th minute goal to equalize at 2-2 sent the game into extra time. Reading were magnificent, on the day it just wasn't to be, but no-one can take anything away from Reading. And so ends the most successful season ever in the clubs history. What the Royals have achieved this season is something so great that no-one could ever have imagined it. Congratulations to the super Royals they've done us all proud. The lads played their guts out in the first half and it gave all of us the Reading end the perfect excuse to party. I've never sung my guts out so much. At the end of the game I was devestated but stayed with the majoirty to cheer the Royals of the pitch. The lads did great, but it just wasn't quite enough.

At half-time Reading were cruising, so much in control, and looking Premiership bound for certain. Reading started which the most positive attitude possible playing our classic passing came and going straight for the early goal - which duely came after just 4 minutes. Reading could have taken the lead in the first minute when a free kick from just inside the box after the Bolton keeper picked up a back pass was deflected away. Wdowczyk powered the ball goal bound but the ball cannoned off Lovell. On 4 minutes Lee '28 billion quids worth' Nogan scored one the sexiest goals seen at Wembley for what must be decades. Bernal ran down the right wing and passed neatly to Nogan waiting in the middle. Nogan had the small problem of about 4 Bolton defenders in the way. They might as well not have been there. Nogan weaved in and out of all of them sheilding the ball and gliding through until he got a clear shot at goal. The ball flew into the right side of the net and 36,500 Reading supporters flew into the air in celebration. The huge sea of Blue and White that converged on Wembley from Reading was going mental.

The Royals refused to sit on their superb start and Bolton must have been left thinking about all those visits to Grimsby. At this stage the game was all Readings. Lee Nogan again almost scored just minutes later when a cross from Scottie Taylor flew across the face of the goal. Then with only 12 minutes gone Reading made it two. Gooding was chopped just outside the box and the lads got ready for the free kick - Osbourn to take it. When the ball came across to the middle of the goal area the Bolton players just stood and watched as Adie Williams calmly stode on through the middle of the crowd to have just the goal keeper to beat. He stuck out his left foot and the ball was in the net. The Reading fans had only just started to calm down a little bit and then we were celebrating our second. 12 minutes gone, 2-0. Quote me: `We're going to win 9-0 at this rate!' And at that point there seemed no reason why not. Cruising was an understatement.

In a re-run of the Simon cup on 34 minutes Gilksey run though and the Bolton defender (who had been watching Readings 4-1 Luton win on video just that morning) took his part brilliantly right on cue, chopping Gilkes from behind even though Gilkes has already prodded the ball too far ahead. A definate penalty. Up comes Archie Lovell about to make it 3-0. We all can't belive it. Theres no way at all we're not going to the Premiership next season. This goal is going to settle it. But no. Lovell stepped up and hit the ball hard but near to Branagan in the Bolton goal at the perfect height for the keeper, and the Bolton supporters have their first thing to cheer about all afternoon. After the game this penalty miss was taken as the turning point in the game. Maybe it was since Bolton began to play but we still we 2-0 up and very much the team in command. Bolton began to push forward towards the end of the half and Shaka was forced to make his first real save after a Bolton corner.

Reading started the second half well pushing forward again. However soon after the restart the game began to go Boltons way. Bolton started to create a whole load of chances and luckily Shaka was in good form to maintain our two goal lead. With 15 minutes left things were still looking good. Reading had soaked up the Bolton onslaught well however we were looking a lot less like scoring and seemed content just to defend. Not the best idea: as we have proved so many times before the best form of defence is attack. When Bolton pulled one back to make it 2-1 it started to become clear what was going to happen. Hopkins was unable to outjump the Bolton forward when the ball came across and Shaka was stranded. It was clear the game was slipping from Readings grasp. The next ten minutes I spent just waiting for the inevitable Bolton equalizer and Boltons supporters finally began to make some noise and push their team forward. Reading made a quick attack but Bolton were now well in control. With just four minutes remaining on the clock Reading still led 2-1. The nerves were showing - more in the crowd than on the pitch. Everyone was on the edge of the seat willing the time to pass and for Reading to be in the Premiership. We were so close but everyone was waiting for the Bolton equalizer which came as no suprise but still a shock on 86 minutes. De Freitas, Boltons man of the match, who had come on at half time evaded Wdowczyks challange and fired the ball wide of Shaka and into the corner of the net. For a few seconds the entire Reading end was stunned into silence until, despite our instant depression, we made an attempt at outshouting the ecstatic Bolton supporters.

When extra time started it was clear that Reading were all played out. Every one of the Royals had put everything into it and run themselves into the ground. Bolton on the other hand had just made an amazing comeback to drag the game into extra time. Everything was going right for Bolton, everything was beginning to go wrong for Reading. At the re-start there was only going to be a Bolton victory and everyone knew it. Despite everything Reading threw their final bits of energy into it starting extra time attacking. Lovell and Taylor both had chances saved. After we failed to score it was Boltons turn and their attempts went in. Paatelainen got the ball in the middle without a clear challenge at the edge of the area. Shaka was in two minds to stay on his line or come out and instead just stood waiting as the ball was fired to his right and out of his reach into the goal. At 2-3 Reading were out of it. Boltons fourth sealed it with just 3 minutes left of extra time: Readings defence really must take the blame for this one. However I'm in no mood to blame any Reading player. They are all heroes. De Freitas got the ball in the middle just about 8 yards out and no one was marking him. He fired the ball which bounced off Shaka back to himself. Williams stood and watched as if glued to the spot by horror. And De Freitas bundled the ball into the net clumsily to to the left of Shaka who was still on the floor, just inside the post. 2-3 and Bolton were going to the Premiership instead, taking our place.

One point about the refereeing. How come both teams had three players booked? Boltons dirty northern tactics played a large part in their victory. Throughout the first half with Bolton 2-0 down the frustration was clear as zillions of heavy Bolton tackles carried on taking out our men. Lee 'with him on the pitch its a 100 percent victory' Nogan was forced off with calf strain after a series of Bolton feet first 'tackles'. His replacement for the second half, Quinn, had a good game but lacked the ability of Nogan we so desperately needed to turn the game. Bernal too was having a fantastic game with some great runs down the right until he two was forced to retire due to injury and be replaced by Jeff 'Munster' Hopkins. Hopkins responded well and played a great game but I can't help thinking how much better things would be with Nogan and Bernal on the field to link together.

Our 'consolation' goal right at the end of extra time to make it 3-4 was a great goal created by Hopkins and scored by Sir Jimmy. Hopkins crossed it and Quinn met it with an incredible volley right into the roof of the net. A great goal to finish off a great Royals performance - but it was too late and instead of being a winner it was nothing more than a consolation. Still, one last excuse to go mental at wembley. It wasn't going to change the outcome but it was great to see it go in.

Even in defeat the Reading crowd were brilliant - just like the players. And as the Royals walked slowly off the pitch in disbelief and dispair we were outshouting the Bolton support easily paying tribute to a great try and a great season. Driving home on the M4 it was great doing under the motorway bridges covered with flags being tied on by loyal royals, waving at supporters on the bridge. I've had a little bit of time to reflect. I still feel really shaken by everything. It's all those if's and buts. If we had put that penalty away it might have settled it. If we had finished 2nd last season or even next season we wouldn't have been in the play-offs - we would have automatically gone up. But it was a brilliant experience, it was a great day out. Shame about the result but it can't take anything away from the most amazing season ever.

So we have another season of Division One football awaiting us. Look on the bright side - not only do we get the satisfaction of stuffing Leicester at home next season but we will be up there at the top again instead of facing Ipswich style humilitation away at Man Utd. Providing we keep the team together next season is going to be just as good. I can't wait!


Match Details:

Attempts On Target :  Reading 11 Bolton 10
Attempts Off Target:  Reading 5  Bolton 13
Corners Won:          Reading 6  Bolton 9
Free kicks conceded:  Reading 18 Bolton 14
Offsides:             Reading 3  Bolton 0
Bookings:             Reading 3  Bolton 3

Reading's play-off luck ran out, but perhaps you'll be luckier with a Sun Bingo bonus code.

Report from The Telegraph, 30 May 1995:

SO this is why a marvellous sport continues to intoxicate the senses. Two hours of the finest, most tense entertainment imaginable culminated in Bolton Wanderers being back among England's leading lights; a dramatic way for the domestic season to conclude.

What a tale to be passed down the generations. Of how Bolton, their defence initially dishevelled, fell behind to a delightfully intentioned Reading side in this absorbing First Division play-off final. Of how the buccaneers from Burnden Park passed their way back into contention before breaching poor Reading's defences twice again in extra time. Of how Bolton's players cavorted before their dancing followers. Of how their revered president, Nat Lofthouse, held the play-off trophy aloft, the epochs bridged.

But amid all the merriment doubts proliferated, most notably concerning the movements of Bruce Rioch and Alan Stubbs, the manager and captain so essential to Bolton's renaissance. Rioch's success in guiding his neat-passing team of many talents into the Premiership has rightly earned him a coterie of admirers.

His future resides among the elite, but possibly in charge of another club. Arsenal, ambitious and close to his Hertfordshire-based family, may tempt him yet. Stubbs, too, could decide his chances of England recognition improve in more glamorous surroundings. Bolton's board face an awkward summer.

What a calamity the departure of Rioch and Stubbs would prove for Burnden, a defeat snatched from the heartland of victory. For yesterday, Bolton resembled a club united, inspired by a famous past embodied by Lofthouse, and fired by the thought of future visits from Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers.

Shaka Hislop, the Royals' heroic goalkeeper, was inconsolable

Here, too, was a club gracious in celebration, a feeling of generosity never more evident than when Jason McAteer broke away from the lap of honour to console Reading's heartbroken players, one by one, although Shaka Hislop, the Royals' heroic goalkeeper, was inconsolable.

McAteer claimed the central role in the afternoon's drama. Already booked as Bolton succumbed to fine early strikes from Lee Nogan and Adrian Williams, the tireless Irishman should have been dismissed for a 35th-minute tackle from behind on Michael Gilkes. Peter Foakes, acting contrary to FIFA edicts, deemed a penalty sufficient punishment.

The fates turned Lancashire's way. Keith Branagan saved Stuart Lovell's spot kick, a daunting 3-0 scoreline was averted, and Bolton set about retrieving the game. Rioch, so disappointed by Coca-Cola Cup defeat to Liverpool, clearly had strong words with his men at half-time, determined to avoid a Wembley repeat. Their spirit stirred, Bolton ran and passed their way upfield.

Alan Thompson, now deployed inside to escape Andy Bernal, found room to express his young talent. Prompted by Thompson's constant surges, space opened and Reading's impressive unity weakened. Gradually Hislop's goal came into range. After 75 minutes, the hugely promising Hislop was beaten from an exceptional passage of play. Stubbs swept forward as few English defenders can, the momentum he precipitated carried on by Mixu Paatelainen. And then on to John McGinlay, whose cross arrowed to the far post, where Owen Coyle rose above Jeff Hopkins to head home.

The force was with Bolton. Moments after directing a lob wide, Fabian De Freitas, the rangy Dutch substitute, equalised following a flowing move again begun by Stubbs and accelerated by Thompson. De Freitas's finish, dipping to deceive Hislop, dragged the game into extra time.

An extension to such epic entertainment was a privilege few expected when Reading, purposeful and full of passing, had taken the lead through Nogan's excellent run and shot, his fourth-minute opener soon followed by Williams's near-post flick-in of Simon Osborn's free-kick.

But Bolton are forged from a special mettle. Extra time saw them at their best, held steady by Stubbs and muscled forward by McAteer. After 105 minutes, the young Irishman, seemingly immune to exhaustion, powered down the left, past Dariusz Wdowczyk and Hopkins, before back-heeling the ball to Coyle. On this move went, gaining in pace and magnificence, as Coyle crossed long, McGinlay headed back and Paatelainen nodded over Hislop.

Bolton's joy ascended to the skies. Their end of Wembley, initially quiet and undermanned, was now a sea of banners and scarves. De Freitas delighted them further with a near-post strike, which proved crucial when Jimmy Quinn thumped in a 120th-minute effort for Reading - a final flash of defiance in the face of defeat.

Quinn and Mick Gooding, joint managers of a pleasing Reading side who finished above Bolton, deserve immense credit, not least for reminding a wide audience of the quality of football that can be created from small resources.

Homesick Rioch may move on

BRUCE Rioch led Bolton into the Premier League and then admitted family commitments could take him away from Burnden Park.

Rioch, 47, has spent three years away from his family home in Hertfordshire and, while enjoying yesterday's play-off victory, acknowledged he may not be at the helm next season.

Rioch said: "I do not have a problem with the chairman or the board but I have a three-year contract which expired today and I have lived in Bolton for three years while my family has lived in Harpenden.
"My son, a player at Luton, has just been released, I have a mother and father-in-law in need of attention and caring and my daughter-in-law and son are expecting twins.
"There are no ulterior motives. I don't want to live another three years away from my family."

Alan Stubbs, the Bolton captain, said: "All the players want Bruce to stay and we've been fed up over the speculation. It has taken the shine off our achievement."

Reading accepted defeat with good grace and co-manager Mick Gooding said: "We have set our standards now. We will show we are not a one-season wonder team."