Dramatic finale raises questions following Bolton relegation

They had conceded an unfortunate penalty, which was questionable, to relinquish the three points they had against Stoke. Bolton were then relegated despite QPR losing 3-2 at Manchester City. But there was a flip side. Manchester United were winning the league title as their match with Sunderland came to an end, with Bolton’s relegation already confirmed. At the point their match finished it was 2-1 to QPR. When their game finished it was 3-2 to Manchester City.

A coincidence? Perhaps. But then it does raise an important point. For a long time there has been an obsession with ensuring that games finish at the same time. The situation where two teams battling relegation know their fate before the conclusion of their games, which at the same time impact on the title race, is an unusual one, but one which should perhaps be considered. If it is true that QPR lost 3-2 because they knew the Bolton result then Manchester United would feel rightly aggrieved.

It seems odd that such a thing can happen in football. When the last game of a season, or a group in a cup competition takes place, all games kick off at the same time to avoid the situation occurring where a team knows what they have to (or in QPR’s case, not have to) do to achieve the outcome they are after. It is certainly not a good thing if this were to have happened on Sunday night, during one of the most tensely fought title races in years.

It is largely down, one would say, to Joey Barton. It was his indiscretion against Manchester City that saw him sent off and five minutes of injury time required at the Etihad Stadium. It is also fair to say that City were wearing down their opponents and may have scored their two goals anyway. But it is that part of football, and the numerous interlinking factors which impact on them.

But then, should Bolton have even drawn that game? They should, if the referee had got things right, be winning that game 2-1, and heading for safety with a QPR defeat. But then QPR may not have lost. So there are perhaps lessons to be learned. This was not a perfectly conducted last day of the season. Refereeing errors may have cost a team their place in the Premier league, and possibly too another team the league title. Much to learn all round, it would seem.