RETRO MATCH: Byrom treble stole Hoppy's thunder
Saturday, August 9, 1969, at Burnden Park, Division Two WANDERERS 4 (Byrom 3, Greaves) Millwall 1 (Weller ) Att: 10,402)
IT was billed as a landmark day in the career of Eddie Hopkinson . . . but 14 minutes into his 500th league appearance for the club, the record-breaking Wanderers goalkeeper dropped a king-sized clanger.
The former England international stooped to collect Warwick Rimmer’s routine backpass in front of the Lever End and suddenly disaster struck. Somehow he missed the ball and Millwall’s star striker Keith Weller pounced.
It was a dreadful start to a new season and a big embarrassment to Hopkinson – one of the heroes of the 1958 FA Cup triumph who, 11 years on, was still the first name on the Bolton team-sheet.
But his blushes were saved as Wanderers produced a spirited fightback to send the Lions home with their tails between their legs.
John Byrom – that craftiest of strikers who had shouldered the scoring responsibilities since the sales of Wyn Davies and Francis Lee over the previous couple of seasons – helped himself to a hat-trick and Roy Greaves, home-grown and ultimately another 500-plus appearance man, scored a cracker.
Hopkinson – never one to dwell on a mistake – recovered well enough to make a couple of smart saves, but Wanderers were so comfortably in charge once Byrom had headed them level in the 38th minute that he had a relatively easy afternoon.
It turned out to be a fitting result to for Hopkinson on his big day and gave manager Nat Lofthouse a dream start to his second season in charge.
Lofthouse, who had done so much in his playing days to keep Wanderers among the leading lights of English football, was desperate to see them back in the top flight and this was the perfect result with a performance to match.
Wearing the all-white kit they switched to in a controversial break with tradition, they looked disjointed in the early stages but, once they had settled after that rocky start, they fought gamely until things started going right with captain Dave Hatton – the subject of increasing transfer speculation and who just over a month later would join Blackpool in a £40,000 deal – a calming influence.
In the 38th minute, the Millwall defence left Byrom alone long enough for him to nod home a Terry Wharton corner for the equaliser.
From then on it was all Wanderers as Bolton Evening News chief football writer, Frank Booth, reflected in his Monday verdict: “The Bolton machine was really in gear now and Millwall were on the receiving end as attack after attack poured down on their goal.
“Good running by Roy Greaves put him in the right spot to take a Terry Wharton pass and his shot was half-saved by Millwall keeper Bryan King. Byrom lost no time in hitting the ball home as it ran loose to put Bolton ahead in the 57th minute.
“Then Greaves got into the scoring act in the 68th minute when Byrom nodded a Ron Phillips centre back for him to hammer a fine shot past king.
“Millwall were struggling by now and it came as no surprise when Byrom added a fourth to complete his hat-trick in the 71st minute when he outjumped the visitors’ defence to head a John Ritson free-kick into the net.
“I was very impressed by the way the Wanderers pulled themselves back into a game which was going against them at the start.
“The crunch came for Millwall mid-way through the second half when they were flagging a little. This was the signal for Bolton to pile on tremendous pressure which brought its just reward.
“While Millwall were struggling in the heat, Bolton were racing into spaces, calling for the ball and playing delightful soccer.
“Every Bolton player did well and Hopkinson made up for his earlier mistake by making some fine saves – but by and large he didn’t have a lot to do. Charlie Hurley was a tower of strength at centre-half, and what a tragedy it will be if Wanderers fail to keep Dave Hatton at Burnden Park. He is one player who must not be allowed to follow the Wyn Davies, Francis Lee path away from Bolton. He is far too valuable.
“Millwall did the double over Bolton last season, but if the Wanderers can maintain this sort of show they will be handing out some doubles themselves.”