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Bolton v Coventry retro match - BBC frozen out at Highfield Road

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
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The big freeze was causing havoc with the football schedules on St Patrick’s Day 1979 – even leaving Match of the Day frozen in its tracks.

The BBC were forced to abandon plans to televise Birmingham against West Brom but after Bolton’s game against nearby Coventry survived the weather they dashed to Highfield Road to set-up.

Unfortunately, technical problems left John Motson with no commentary – much to the Beeb’s embarrassment.

“The 28-man film crew dashed from Birmingham to Coventry and rigged up all the gear only to find the pictures could not be relayed,” a spokesman said.

“We have yet to set up various links for the programme, such as on the surrounding hills, and the heavy snow in the West Midlands made this impossible.”

It wasn’t just the television schedulers who were being inconvenienced by the heavy snow. FIFA referee Pat Partridge, of Cockfield, had to pull out of the FA Cup quarter final between Southampton and Arsenal after being snowed in at his isolated County Durham farm.

Ian Graves and his side managed to get their game – one of seven played in March – to go ahead and drew two apiece.

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Neil McNab, who had made his debut against the Sky Blues at Burnden earlier that season, grabbed one of the goals, with Frank Worthington adding the second.

Bolton were hit with the loss of Irishman Tony Dunne, who had been carrying a groin strain and was forced to come off at half time. He missed the next game against Derby County but was ably deputised by David Burke.

The injury had been a persistent problem for Dunne, however, and he also stated his intention to retire from playing at the end of the campaign.

Ian Greaves had words of praise for Mike Walsh after the game, adding: “I was delighted by Mike’s display in midfield. He gave us added aggression and better balance.”

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A season on, Wille Morgan scored the only goal in a 3-1 defeat at the same ground but Bolton did earn a point in the corresponding game thanks to a solitary effort from Phil Wilson.

Highlights are hard to come by in meetings between the two clubs but the undisputed low point was a 5-1 home defeat on January 31, 1998.

Colin Todd’s side had been on a poor run of form which included defeats against Blackburn, Leeds, Everton and Newcastle but actually got off to a decent start when Scott Sellars put them ahead after 22 minutes.

Noel Whelan quickly brought the Sky Blues level but in the second half all hell broke loose as two goals apiece from Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin condemned the Whites to their second-heaviest defeat of the season, behind that unforgettable first-half collapse against Sheffield Wednesday.

Happier times were ahead in 1996 as Alan Stubbs scored twice to keep alive slim hopes of avoiding relegation from the Premier League.

Wanderers forged ahead on 55 minutes when Simon Coleman headed down for the Liverpudlian to crash home a right-footed shot. On the hour, a rather speculative Stubbs effort took a bad bounce off the bumpy Highfield Road pitch and embarrassed Steve Ogrizovic.

Bolton had to wait another 20 years to beat Coventry and that result came courtesy of Zach Clough’s sixth goal in eight starts back in November 2016.

Wanderers had to cope with some heavy pressure in the second half but Phil Parkinson's side held on for their first home win over the Sky Blues in eight attempts since 1965.

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