WANDERERS came back from the dead to snatch victory against Wigan Athletic in October 1989 – the only trouble was, nobody knew who grabbed the winning goal!

Julian Darby and Tony Philliskirk were arguing over who got the final touch to the 88th minute decider well after the final whistle, with manager Phil Neal called in to adjudicate.

“I’m claiming it,” Darby said after the final whistle. “It’s about time I scored one, and having two is even better, so that one is mine.”

Philliskirk, who had got Bolton back into the game with a first-half penalty, said he had the support of the dressing room with his claim.

“He knows he didn’t get a touch,” he said, before issuing Darby with a light-hearted challenge. “Let him come over here, look into my eyes and tell me he got a touch.”

Video evidence at the time proved inconclusive but the record books now show that Darby – and not top-scorer Philliskirk – was awarded the strike.

The game had been a passionate local affair, with Wigan snatching a 2-0 lead inside the first six minutes.

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“Full credit to them,” Neal said, having watched his team battle back to win 3-2, “they all had to stay with it and get back into the game.

“If that is what the rest of the Lancashire derbies are like this season then we are going to have to defend a lot better.”

The Nineties were just under two months away and there was a feelgood factor spreading around Burnden after the Sherpa Van Trophy triumph at Wembley a few months earlier.

The Bolton Evening News splashed on the news that legendary actress Bette Davis had passed away, while down the road at Manchester United, Michael Knighton and Martin Edwards were locked in a High Court battle for control at Old Trafford.

Black Box were at number one with Ride on Time and you could go and see Dead Poets Society, K9 or Lethal Weapon 2 at the pictures.

Closer to home, Wanderers had been rocked with the news that their longest-serving player, Steve Thompson, had handed in a transfer request, one “reluctantly” accepted by manager Phil Neal.

Thompson, then 24, still had two years of his contract left to run at Bolton and had recently played his 250th league game. But the midfielder, who had helped Wanderers lift the Sherpa Van Trophy only months earlier, wanted to play at a higher level of football.

“I don’t want to go through my entire career just thinking I can play in the First or Second Division,” he told us. “I actually want the chance to play there.

“I feel the years have caught up with me at Bolton. I have been here since I left school and have had eight years in the first team – I have been as loyal as anyone.”

Thompson started for a Wanderers side unbeaten at Burnden in 10 months, with just three defeats in their previous 33 outings in all competitions.

United boss Alex Ferguson (then without the Sir) and former Notts County counterpart Jimmy Sirrell were in the stands to see a surprising start as Phil Brown deflected Scott McGarvey’s fourth-minute free kick past Dave Felgate to gift the Latics an early lead.

Wanderers’ centre-halves Mark Winstanley and Dean Crombie then incurred Neal’s wrath for allowing a long punt from Nigel Adkins to bounce between them, on which Mark Hilditch raced to lob over Felgate despite the best efforts on the line from Barry Cowdrill to keep the ball out of the net.

“That certainly wouldn’t happen in Sunday League football,” Neal reflected after the game. “It’s like anything else, if your two central defenders don’t head the ball or concentrate when it is in the air, you open yourself to a world of problems.”

It nearly got worse for Wanderers as McGarvey beat Felgate with a shot from the edge of the box – but Cowdrill was once again there to cover, hooking the ball off the line.

Wanderers had to dig deep into their reserves to get back into the game, with Phil Brown and David Reeves picked out by Neal as individuals who deserved special praise.

Thompson – whose future at the club was in the balance – also put in a shift to get his side back into the game, his cross needlessly handled by Darren Patterson to gift Philliskirk a penalty on 37 minutes.

There was an inevitability about the equaliser from Darby on 68 minutes, which arrived after a prolonged spell of pressure, but the identity of the winning goal-scorer ended up being one for the Dubious Goals Panel many weeks later.

Bryan Hamilton, whose Wigan side dropped to bottom of the table without a win in nine games, bemoaned: “You deserve what you get in this game, sometimes, and we got beat 3-2, so we must have deserved it.”

By that same logic, Bolton felt they too were deserving of three points. And Darby was more than happy to claim a result which put the Whites sixth with 15 points from nine games.

“Even at 2-0 down we still had a feeling we were going to win,” he said, with a degree of hindsight. “We just got the first goal at the right time and then in the second half we had them penned in.

“It is just a question of confidence, something that has happened since we started this run, a never-say-die attitude.”

Wanderers: Felgate, Brown, Cowdrill, Comstive, Crombie, Winstanley, Storer (Chandler 68), Thompson, Reeves, Philliskirk, Darby. Not used: Henshaw.

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