By Marc Iles

YOU’VE heard the one about Emile Heskey scoring on his debut at the age of 36?

Wanderers’ new signing must have heard every Christmas cracker joke in the book during a distinguished playing career with England and a host of top Premier League clubs.

But even he was shaking his head in disbelief as – within hours of getting international clearance to play in the Lancashire derby – he scored an equaliser to set his new club on their way to an incredible festive win.

The half-time substitute came into the game with Rovers flying and completely deserving a 1-0 lead, given to them in controversial circumstances by Josh King.

And Wanderers rode their luck a bit at times in the second half too – but with a veteran strikeforce of Eidur Gudjohnsen and Heskey, there is a palpable sense around the Macron Stadium these days that anything can happen.

Darren Pratley scored the decisive goal, moments after Heskey’s first goal in English football since his days at Aston Villa in 2012 – and that came against Blackburn too!

The first half flew by in an instant. Blackburn manufactured half a dozen clear scoring opportunities but were frustrated by a mixture of fantastic goalkeeping and plain old poor finishing.

Wanderers enjoyed a purple patch midway through the half and had chances of their own – but their only cause for complaint at being a goal behind at the break was the fact Josh King looked so far offside.

Less than a minute was on the clock when Jordan Rhodes headed against the post from Ryan Tunnicliffe’s left-wing cross.

Rovers started at a frenetic pace and were hassling mistakes out of the Whites in their own half.

From a corner Tom Cairney’s snap volley was pushed away superbly by Andy Lonergan – but that save paled in comparison with the one he produced moments later from Ben Marshall.

Wanderers managed to give the ball away from their own throw-in yards from the dugout but were bailed out when Marshall’s low shot was tipped inches wide.

Neil Lennon was clearly not impressed with what he was seeing early on but his mood nearly improved when Rob Hall produced a fine cross for Eidur Gudjohnsen, who did everything right to control his volley but sadly saw it whistle just wide.

Just as Wanderers looked to be gaining control, Blackburn hit on the counter again.

Neil Danns gave the ball away on half way and Marshall played a well-weighted ball through for Rhodes, who was unusually wasteful by placing his shot wide of Lonergan’s goal.

It proved only a brief respite, however, as five minutes before the break a long punt out from the back found King standing a few yards inside the Whites’ half. The former Manchester United man did not wait for the linesman to flag and won a foot race with Tim Ream before rounding Lonergan and putting the ball into the net.

Even then Wanderers had chances to go in at the break on level terms.

Chung-Yong Lee saw a shot parried by Jason Steele, Feeney’s cross bounced off the top of the bar and Darren Pratley failed to sort out his feet in time to stab the ball home after Gudjohnsen and Matt Mills had kept a corner bobbling around the six-yard box.

Lennon saw enough to change things at the break, bringing Heskey on for his first appearance in place of Rob Hall.

It was the former England striker’s first game back in English football since May 2012 when he turned out for Aston Villa at Norwich but he nearly had an instant impact, producing a deep cross for Feeney with his first touch which was buried into the side netting by his new team-mate.

His first shot came a few minutes later, a scuffed volley from Vela’s cross.

Ten minutes into the half and it seemed the former Leicester City man was searching a little for his second wind.

By my how he found it just before the hour mark as Gudjohnsen slid a ball across the six-yard box for Heskey to pounce and send the Macron Stadium into delirium.

The man they nicknamed Bruno had delivered a big blow to Blackburn on Boxing Day – but the knockout was yet to come.

That happened less than two minutes later as Dervite headed a right wing cross back into the melee and Pratley was there to crash home his second goal in as many games.

It was anything but game over from that point.

One almighty scramble in the Wanderers box ended with the ball bouncing on the goal-line, the post, anywhere but the net.

Grant Hanley also volleyed over from close range, albeit under some telling pressure from Vela.

But the day belonged to Heskey who – despite all the jokes about his scoring record, just loves to play against Blackburn,

He has scored more goals against Rovers (11) than any other club and this was the 17th time in 31 attempts he has beaten them.

This was a fifth straight win against Blackburn for Bolton, now eight games unbeaten and lifts them into 14th place in the table, nine points off the play-offs.

Now those are numbers to bring a smile to any Wanderers fans’ face this Christmas.