A brace from Brian McBride clinched three points for Fulham at Bolton Wanderers on the final day of the season as Chris Coleman’s side finished in ninth to complete their best ever season in top flight football.
The American forward, who has made a real impact since signing from Columbus Crew in January, broke the deadlock just before half-time with a powerful header from Luis Boa Morte’s early cross. McBride then made the game safe when he guided home a Sean Davis ball in with twelve minutes remaining. Fulham’s accomplished performance ended Bolton’s brilliant five-match unbeaten run but both of these sides comfortably avoided the drop. Not bad for the pre-season relegation favourites.
The visitors survived a scare inside the first minute when Jay-Jay Okocha’s long throw caused consternation in the Fulham box. The danger was only partially cleared and Nicky Hunt drilled a shot fractionally wide from the edge of the area. Carlos Bocanegra nearly released Sean Davis with a beautiful ball from the back but the American’s pass was just off target. The defender then arrived just in the nick of time to prevent Kevin Nolan from latching onto a fine pass from Hunt and Per Frandsen, playing his final game at the Reebok, fizzed a drive just wide of goal. Okocha rattled the crossbar with a ferocious free-kick, but the visitors finished the half the stronger.
Moritz Volz inexplicably declined to cross for Boa Morte six minutes before half time with the Portugese winger screaming for an early ball in, but Fulham did go in front right on the interval. Some classical wing play from Boa Morte saw the ex-Arsenal get to the byline, work the space for a cross and deliver the perfect centre that hung in the air for McBride to power past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Edwin van der Sar showed he had shrugged off the error that presented Jose Antonio Reyes with the winner last weekend by making an outstanding block from Kevin Davies with an hour played. Stelios Giannakopoulos was similarly denied by alert goalkeeper after Okocha threaded a lovely through ball between the Fulham centre backs, but Bolton’s search for an equaliser was leaving space for Fulham to exploit at the back.
Coleman’s charges doubled their lead with twelve minutes to go courtesy of a classical counter attack. Davis broke into the final third, received a ball from Steed Malbranque and kept his composure being picking out McBride in the centre, who slipped an effortless finish beyond Jaaskelainen.
Wanderers did their best to deliver a rousing finish. Kevin Davies diverted a Henrik Pedersen cross wide of goal as Fulham claimed a clean sheet to finish their fantastic season on a real high.
BOLTON WANDERERS (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Thome, N’Gotty, Charlton (Gardner 45), Nolan, Okocha, Campo, Frandsen (Giannakopoulos 71), Djorkaeff (Pedersen 59), Davies. Subs (not used): Barness, Ricketts.
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Goma, Pearce; Djetou, Davis, Legwinski; Malbranque, Boa Morte, McBride (John 90). Subs (not used): Crossley, Hudson, Inamoto, Petta.
BOOKED: Boa Morte.
GOALS: McBride (45, 78).
REFEREE: Graham Barber (Hertfordshire).