As the carnival atmosphere entered full swing, the significance of Bolton’s victory over Peterborough, which confirmed an immediate return to the Championship, could be felt. There was a sense of a club emerging from the doldrums.
The shoots of recovery at last, five years after their relegation from the Premier League which sent them into decline on and off the pitch. With the club’s financial meltdown and well-documented dalliances with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the High Court, it had appeared a long road back for Bolton, who finished bottom of the Championship, 19 points adrift of safety, only a year ago.
They slowly built momentum, though, throughout this campaign, earning a place in the top four from the first week in October, and on Sunday knew that a draw would suffice. Fleetwood were the only team who could catch them, but Bolton had points and goal difference in their favour.
Unwanted distractions have never been far away. The potential to attract further investment in the club rested on a return to the Championship, which in itself is likely to bolster the coffers by £6 million. All at a time when the future of 17 members of the current squad has been left unresolved and a High Court date looms on May 22 over an unpaid £5 million loan.
Under such circumstances, Bolton’s players could have been forgiven if apprehension and nervous tension had taken over. Yet any diversionary thoughts were cast aside as they tore into Peterborough.
The hosts had already worked several promising openings by the time Jem Karacan connected with Dorian Dervite’s cross in the 23rd minute to open the scoring.
David Wheater doubled Bolton’s advantage in the 53rd minute to send the stadium into party mood.
“I was so pleased for Wheater to get the goal,” said the Bolton manager Phil Parkinson, who has now been promoted on three occasions.
“We said on my first day in the club in pre-season, ‘Lads, look, we want to help the lads who were here last year rebuild their reputations’ and I think David Wheater typifies that. He’s been absolutely outstanding from minute one to the last minute of this game.”
The ecstasy was heightened in the 76th minute when Josh Vela danced through the Posh defence and pushed the ball to Adam Le Fondre, who rounded off the scoring.
“It means a lot to so many people in the club,” Parkinson added.
“The club has had some tough times over the last few years and this is a great day for us and has got to be the start of the club building back and putting a platform in place to take us forward again.”
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Howard; Dervite, heater, Wheater, Beevers, Taylor; Morais, Vela, Spearing, Karacan (Pratley 65); Le Fondre, Madine (Wilkinson 90).
Subs: Turner (g), Moxey, Long, Osede, Henry.
Peterborough United (3-4-2-1): McGee; Bostwick, Hughes (Tafazolli 64), Baldwin; Da Silva Lopes (Borg 73), Chettle, Forrester, Freestone; Maddison, Nichols (Edwards 62); Mackail-Smith.
Subs: Tyler (g), Smith, Inman, Morias.
Referee: S Duncan (Northumberland).