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Posted on 30 April 2006  - 12:00

Our final home game of the season was marked with a win as Bolton were defeated by a single goal to ensure our finishing place ambitions remain very much in our own hands going into the closure of the campaign.

Our final home game of the season was marked with a win as Bolton were defeated by a single goal to ensure our finishing place ambitions remain very much in our own hands going into the closure of the campaign.

Aaron Lennon scored the crucial goal in what turned out to be a nervy encounter against a strong and particularly direct Bolton side who did cause a good degree of concern in the first half.

Three more points next Sunday at West Ham will secure fourth place, but in the meantime Arsenal play twice more before we are back in action - which may or may not alter the requirement.

Michael Carrick was upended by Tal Ben Haim after just three minutes when he embarked on one of his surges forward. The anticipation of the resulting free-kick - shot wide by Danny Murphy via a deflection - cranked up what was already an electric atmosphere inside the Lane.

The ball was fizzing around with the crisp precision we have witnessed so often in recent weeks and the fans had come to party and rightly so. Regardless of what happens when the season draws to a close, there will be European nights back next term and that is cause enough for celebration.

Hidetoshi Nakata almost stunned the congregation by rattling the frame of post and crossbar after a knock-down by Jared Borgetti, but the scare was survived and the drum beat went on.

The game then became a little disjointed as the boys attempted to remain composed in the face of Bolton's severe aerial assualt and midfield compression. Michael Dawson was standing tallest, a fearless combatant against a battery from the skies. The centre half had to show quick feet six minutes before the break in order to clip a goalbound effort from Stelios Giannakopoulios away.

It is not for the purists but, it has to be conceded, that Bolton were certainly holding sway in terms of territory in the first half and you were happy to get through the 45 minutes relatively unscathed and hoped that solutions would be found at half-time.

The half-time interval saw Ossie and Ricky take to the pitch before the class of 2006 returned to the fray. There was a significant change, Lee Barnard taking the place of the injured Robbie Keane.

The first two minutes of the second half were a vast improvement on the previous 30 as twice Teemu Tainio brilliantly lost his marker, resulting in a corner that led to a Dawson shot being kneed off the line by Ricardo Gardner. Then a Murphy volley skimmed the outside of the net and a foothold was being planted on the game.

Sam Allardyce responded to the altering course of events by introducing Ricardo Vaz Te in attack, in preference to the robust but shorter Borgetti.

Barnard was squeezing the Bolton back line when in possession and forcing more careless clearances, leading to more second ball being won and pressure applied. Tainio was becoming tigerish and Lennon devastatingly quick down the right flank.

It all came to fruition on 59 minutes, with Carrick the lockpicker and Lennon the hitman. The central man fended off the attentions of defenders on the edge of the area before squaring for Lennon to jink decisively into the danger area and brilliantly direct his low effort wide of the reach of Jussi Jaaskelainen.

The outpouring from the 36,179 crowd was as much relief as joy. Bolton were not about to surrender though and slung the ball forward from all angles - Paul Robinson, Anthony Gardner and Dawson thankfully winning their aeriel battles.

Bolton claimed a penalty for a Dawson challenge on Giannakopoulios, before Robbo went into spectacular mode to deny substitute Jay Jay Okocha. Shortly after Andy Reid made his entrance for Jermain Defoe and it wasn't long before Lennon was causing havoc again and flashing the ball across the face of goal.

The ball was being kept to greater effect but the nerves were really kicking in as the clock ticked round to five minutes remaining. Calum Davenport came on to beef up the rearguard action, with Barnard more than doing his bit in that direction and winning considerable approval from the stands.

There was a big collective gasp when four minutes stoppage time was announced, swiftly followed by a powerful and prolonged blast of supportive noise - although not as noisy as the din that welcomed the sounding of the final whistle.