Date: Monday, 17th December 2002.

Venue: Reebok Stadium, Bolton.

Competition: English Premier League.

Score: Bolton Wanderers 0 Leeds United 3

Scorers: Bolton Wanderers: Nil. Leeds United: Mills, Fowler, Wilcox.

Attendance: 23,378.



Bolton Wanderers: Jaaskelainen; Ngotty (Whitlow), Bergsson, Barness, Campo; Charlton, Frandsen, Okocha (Walters), Tofting (Farrelly); Pedersen, Djorkaeff. Unused Subs: Smith, Poole.

Leeds United: Robinson; Mills, Woodgate, Lucic, Harte; Kelly, Bakke, Okon, Wilcox; Kewell, Fowler (Johnson). Unused Subs: Bowyer, Duberry, Milner, Martyn.

Referee: Mr G. Poll (Tring, Hertfordshire).


It was getting to the time of the year when everyone looked forward to opening the contents of Santa’s sack, and Terry Venables could now look forward to his Christmas without having to worry about a sack of a different nature. Once again indifferent and inconsistent form had left United facing the now not uncommon situation of knowing that defeat would have left them level on points with their opponents, deep in the relegation mire.

It may not have been an exhibition of free-flowing football, and it may not have been as clear-cut as the score-line suggests but the victory at Reebok Stadium was the perfect early Christmas present for United’s under-fire boss. A 3-0 win over strugglers is not normally the kind of result on which a season turns but it was to be hoped that the win might act as a catalyst for a sustained upturn in fortune for Venables’ side. Any win would have been acceptable after a run of just one success in eleven from the previous league games, but there were plenty of positives to take from a much improved United performance.

There was general passion and desire for a start. Much had been written about how much Leeds’ players care about the predicament they found themselves in, it showed they cared rather more than they had perhaps been given credit for. No tackle was shirked, no confrontation avoided and Leeds players were winning ever fifty-fifty challenge and loose ball. There had been times in recent weeks when some players had gone missing when their backs were up against the wall, but on the night every United player gave their all for the cause. In the end that proved to be enough as a Bolton side, who had caused such confusion and panic when they had won at Elland Road the previous month, were beaten at their own game.

Leeds were helped by two screaming goals, Danny Mills and Jason Wilcox would not score better ones if they tried all season, and an inspired penalty save from Paul Robinson, but were worthy winners in the end. There was no need to get too carried away, Bolton were mediocre at best and, at times decidedly poor, but Leeds finally showed how far old-fashioned effort could take them in a modern game supposedly so far removed from such prosaic values.

Terry Venables might have guessed his luck was in when he was handed a late boost before the kick-off with Australian International Harry Kewell shaking off a virus to partner Robbie Fowler in a makeshift attack. There was no place for Lee Bowyer though, with the United midfielder relegated to the bench with an ankle injury amidst the furore that followed his stamp on Malaga midfielder Gerardo’s head during the recent UEFA Cup tie at Elland Road.

Leeds endured a nervous opening ten minutes as Youri Djorkaeff tested Paul Robinson with an early strike, before Nigerian midfielder Jay Jay Okocha was given the time to dance his way to the edge of the box before also firing a shot straight at the United custodian. The Whites desperately needed a confidence-booster after their recent loosing run and, when it arrived it came from the most unlikely of sources.

Danny Mills, without a goal since scoring against former club Charlton Athletic exactly fifteen months previous, set off on a barnstorming run from the halfway line and played an intricate one-two with Harry Kewell before curling a wonderful left-footer past Jussi Jaaskelainen from twenty yards after twelve minutes. The England international looked as surprised as anyone to see the ball nestling in the back of the net after clipping the underside of the crossbar, and it was clear to see what the goal meant to him as he raced to the touchline to embrace a jubilant Brian Kidd.

That was good for United but they were in wonderland just four minute later when poor defending from Jussi Jaaskelainen and Bruno Ngotty handed them a two goal advantage. Ian Harte floated in an innocuous looking ball towards goal but the duo both misjudged its flight as it bounced against the far upright. Harry Kewell was the first to react to the rebound and, while Jaaskelainen recovered to parry his close-range header, Robbie Fowler was on hand to prod home his ninth goal against Bolton in only six Premiership games.

“We’re going to win the league” sang the Leeds fans as United suddenly found a verve and energy that had been missing in most of their displays that season. It seemed too good to last, and the fans were silenced in the twenty-fifth minute when Bolton were awarded the most controversial of penalties. Ian Harte went to ground on the edge of the box and, as he fell, his outstretched hand touched the ball. Referee Graham Poll initially did nothing but, on the advice of his linesman, awarded a spot-kick despite any contact looking accidental, and the incident taking place on the very edge of the area. The bad luck that had plagued United’s season looked to have struck again, but Paul Robinson continued his rich vein of form with a wonderful tumbling save to turn Youri Djorkaeff’s well-struck penalty against the post.

Leeds were having to fight tooth and nail at the back to keep out the intelligent runs of Youri Djoerkaeff and Jay Jay Okocha, but they continued to threaten at the other end with Gary Kelly shooting narrowly over after twisting and turning on the edge of the box. For once the boos at half-time had nothing to do with Leeds, and the mood of the home fans almost worsened in the early stages of the second half as Gary Kelly flashed a dangerous cross-shot across the Bolton goal. Youri Djorkaeff saw another penalty appeal turned down after a theatrical tumble shortly afterwards and, as Bolton enjoyed their best spell of the game,

Leeds survived an almighty scramble and Hendrik Pedersen had been allowed to ghost behind their backline. Suddenly United found themselves under pressure, but Ian Harte almost wrapped things up with a bizarre third at the other end as his free-kick leapt awkwardly in front of Jussi Jaaskelainen. Bolton, mindful of their two late strikes at Elland Road, continued to press and Stig Tofting beat Paul Robinson with a stinging twenty-yard half-volley, only to see it clip the crossbar on its way over. But, this time, there was to be no late sting in the tail as Leeds scored a brilliant third fifteen minutes from time to ensure only their sixth win of the season.

There seemed little on when Jason Wilcox picked up Gary Kelly’s pass on the left touchline, but he cut inside on to his right foot before dispatching an unstoppable twenty-five yarder into the top right-hand corner. It was Jason Wilcox’s first goal for two-and-a half years and was a fitting reward for the midfielder’s best display of the season.




Match Action:



Danny Mills sets off on his run down the wing and then unleashes the shot that gave United the lead



Danny Mills turns after scoring and shows his joy



Jonathan Woodgate is first to congratulate Danny Mills, with Jason Wilcox, Ian Harte and Teddy Lucic close behind watched by

Terry Venables and Brian Kidd



Robbie Fowler salutes his success from the penalty spot                                  Harry Kewell and Robbie Fowler celebrate watched by

                                                                                                                               Ivan Campo and Gudni Bergsson


Erik Bakke joins the celebrations as Per Frandsen and Stig Tofting commiserate



                                                              Harry Kewell and Robbie Fowler celebrate



Jason Wilcox lets fly for the third goal and then turns and celebrates




                                   Jason Wilcox is congratulated by Paul Okon and then Harry Kewell



Jason Wilcox celebrates his goal                                                                  before being mobbed by Harry Kewell, Jonathan Woodgate,

                                                                                                                        Paul Okon, Robbie Fowler and Ian Harte



Harry Kewell, Jonathan Woodgate, Paul Okon, Robbie          Teddy Lucic, Harry Kewell, Jonathan Woodgate, Jason Wilcox, Robbie Fowler,

Fowler and Ian Harte celebrate with Jason Wilcox.                 Danny Mills and Ian Harte celebrate   



Eirik Bakke gets a grip on Per Frandsen                                                                                  Ian Harte is adjudged to have handled in the box



Youri Djorkaeff’s penalty is saved as Danny Mills, Gary Kelly and Teddy Lucic watch                                 

Harry Kewell rounds Bruno N’Gotty

Ian Harte cuts inside Per Frandsen



Gary Kelly, Teddy Lucic, Harry Kewell,                             Harry Kewell goes close                                                        

Robbie Fowler, congratulate Jason Wilcox



Terry Venables has something to smile about



Paul Okon closes in on Youri Djorkaeff





                                    Danny Mills, Robbie Fowler and Jason Wilcox scored the Leeds goals                                       



Harry Kewell had a hand in two goals                                          Ian Harte’s cross resulted                     Gary Kelly started the move

                                                                                                        in a goal                                                   for the third goal



Paul Robinson saved a penalty                                Lee Bowyer was relegated to the bench   Gudni Bergsson came into the back-line



Gareth Farrelly, Jonathan Walters and ex-Leeds player Mike Whitlow came on as substitutes