I reminisced earlier this season about one of my favourite Bolton Wanderers fixtures: Nottingham Forest. That game brings back memories of ding-dong battles, narrow victories, and pulsating excitement. This season’s game at the Reebok, which finished 2-2 after both sides had been ahead, only added to my liking for that particular fixture.
But for every up, there is a down; for every day a night, and for every drunken night of revelry; a hangover. In this case, that hangover is Watford – for me at least.
Bolton welcome Watford to the Reebok on Saturday, after the shambles that was Hull City and a two-week break during which one would hope Owen Coyle has been addressing some of our defensive… how do I put this politely? Let’s call them ‘defensive frailties’.
Back on topic though, the reason I view Watford as a ‘downer’ is my memory of games against north London’s Hornets. The first one that leaped to mind when I saw who we were due to play this weekend was the 1999 playoff final. Everyone remembers the Wembley games; they are things of excitement (and great expense). The anticipation that builds on a stroll down Wembley Way when surrounded by thousands of like-minded football fans is one of the highlights of any English football fan’s support.
It’s almost enough to make up for those cold, wet Tuesday evenings in Grimsby.
But in 1999, the Wanderers were not interested in putting on a show for the thousands of traveling fans. It was a woeful performance from Colin Todd’s Bolton, out-fought and out-muscled by Graham Taylor’s Watford. It finished 0-2, and it was the right result. It’s depressing when the highlight of a game is one of the opposition’s goals – a superb overhead kick from Nick Wright in the first half.
The second game that I remember against Watford came in the Premier League (sorry – Barclay’s Premier League) in 2006. The home fixture was, on paper, an easy three points for Allardyce’s Bolton. And, to be fair, three points we took – eventually. An injury time penalty was converted by the one and only Gary Speed, after Idan Tal (remember him?) had been fouled in the box by future Bolton legend (ahem) Danny Shittu.
It was turgid stuff thorughout – and Speed’s penalty represented Bolton’s first attempt on target. Quite a feat. As the Independent’s report from the game summarised: ” It was unfair that a game as poor as this should have been graced by a goal of any nature.” I don’t disagree (although that didn’t stop me rushing up and down the aisle screaming when the penalty went in!).
So – I hope Saturday’s game represents a turning point in my opinion of Bolton v Watford. It’s depressing that so early in the season this game looks like a ‘must-win’, but it does. In fact – sod the performance; sod entertaining football; I’d bite your hand off for a 1-0 win in injury time, thanks to a dodgy penalty.
Come on You Whites!