Allardyce at Reebok to see Bolton clinch UEFA spot

SAM ALLARDYCE endured a nervous return to the Reebok Stadium but was ultimately left celebrating as Bolton secured European qualification for only the second time in their 133-year history.

Allardyce quit as Trotters boss on April 29 after seven and a half hugely successful years in charge and seems certain to be unveiled as Newcastle manager early next week.

Yet the 52-year-old still found time to accept an invitation from Phil Gartside to attend the game and take up his old seat in the directors’ box.

A tense encounter saw Villa snatch a deserved point in the 81st minute when substitute Luke Moore fired home to tie the scores at 2-2. But Reading’s failure to win at Blackburn ensured Bolton finished the season a point clear of the Royals in seventh spot to clinch a coveted UEFA Cup berth.

That ensured a tangible and rich reward for new Trotters boss Sammy Lee and the team that Allardyce built.

This term they have rarely been out of the European places but a turbulent end to the campaign, and a five-match winless streak, threatened a final-day disaster. Villa arrived at the Reebok Stadium unbeaten in eight games and twice came back to equalise after goals from Gary Speed and Kevin Davies had given Bolton the lead.

But a point proved enough and allowed Allardyce to depart the Reebok Stadium with a sense of satisfaction at seeing the job completed before he heads for Tyneside.

Opta Fact: Martin O’Neill’s side started the season with a nine game unbeaten run and ended the campaign with another one

BOLTON: Jaaskelainen, Ben Haim, Meite, Michalik, Gardner, Nolan, Faye, Campo, Speed (Vaz Te 55), Davies, Anelka (Tal 46).

ASTON VILLA: Sorensen (Taylor 46), Hughes, Mellberg, Laursen, Bouma (Davis 77), Agbonlahor, Gardner, Barry, Berger (Moore 74), Carew, Young.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).

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