Belfast Telegraph

Neil Lennon's Bolton lads breathe big sigh of relief

Bolton 3-2 Eastleigh

By Mark Bryans

Neil Lennon's Bolton were given the fright of their lives by non-league Eastleigh before edging through 3-2 thanks to captain Darren Pratley's second-half winner which eliminated a club 53 places below Wanderers in the football pyramid.

In an enthralling third-round replay - the first game ended 1-1 - that had been snubbed for television coverage, the only side outside of the Football League still in the competition led through Joe Partington's 11th-minute opener.

At that point Ulsterman Lennon's Championship side were facing up to the possibility of being embarrassingly dumped out of the FA Cup just a day after HM Revenue and Customs had, unsuccessfully, tried to have them liquidated in the High Court over an unpaid tax bill of £2.2million.

Cash-strapped Wanderers were given a five-week stay of execution in the court on Monday and fought back on the pitch too as goals from Gary Madine and Dean Moxey put them ahead.

And even though Kaid Mohamed levelled in first-half stoppage time, Pratley, whose 87th-minute equaliser forced this replay, proved the Spitfires' scourge again to set up a fourth-round clash against Leeds.

With midfielder Mark Davies making his first appearance since a move to Sheffield Wednesday collapsed, Lennon named the strongest Bolton side possible and they approached the opening exchanges in confident fashion only to find themselves behind 11 minutes in.

Wellington Silva lost rampaging right-back Partington and after the Brazilian failed to stop him when he cut inside, the defender bent a brilliant finish into Paul Rachubka's far corner.

But Wanderers scored twice in four minutes to wrestle back control. First Madine lashed in after shrugging off captain Paul Reid to control Josh Vela's right-wing cross on his chest before Moxey fired them in front from a corner conceded after Silva's free-kick was pushed on to the top of the crossbar by goalkeeper Ross Flitney.

Yet, in this soap opera of a season at the Macron Stadium, there was to be another twist before the interval as the minnows levelled in stoppage-time.

Mohamed, signed just two weeks ago from Bath City, played a one-two with Jai Reason and coolly slotted beyond Rachubka to make it 2-2.

Lennon's side attacked from the start of the second half.

Liam Feeney fired into the side netting, Liam Trotter headed over and Silva blasted off target before their pressure told.

Skipper Pratley played a one-two with substitute Shola Ameobi, who was making what could prove to be his final appearance for the club ahead of his contract, which will not be renewed, expiring this weekend, and the midfielder finished past Flitney with 32 minutes to go.

Eastleigh then ran out of ideas in the closing stages as Bolton avoided going out of the cup just 24 hours after they avoided going out of business.

BOLTON: Rachubka, Vela, Holding, Dervite, Moxey, Feeney, Pratley, Trotter, Davies, Madine (Ameobi 52), Wellington (Woolery 86).

Goals: Madine 39, Moxey 43, Pratley 58

Subs not used: Gouano, Spearing, Danns, Dobbie, Campbell.

EASTLEIGH: Flitney, Partington, Reid, Evans, Harding, Strevens (Midson 75), Mohamed (Lafayette 86), Payne, Drury, Reason (Cook 79), Constable.

Goals: Partington 11, Mohamed 45

Subs not used: Green, Turley, Noice, Griggs.

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Belfast Telegraph


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