Memorable Match: Charlton v Bolton

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Chris takes a lovely trip down memory lane, stops for a picnic and is chased away by a farmer in the latest Memorable Match feature

Saturday, 23 March, 2002 saw a relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers make the trip to London to play Premiership rivals Charlton Athletic in a true 'six-pointer'.

Wanderers hadn't won away from the Reebok Stadium in four months and lay firmly in the relegation zone. Christmas signings made by legendary manager Sam Allardyce had been made in order to stop the rot.

Allardyce had brought in names such as French centre half Bruno N'Gotty from Marseille, Danish tough nut Stig Tøfting from Hamburg and French World Cup Winner Youri Djorkaeff on loan from German side Kaiserslautern, where he had fallen out of favour. German striker Fredi Bobic had arrived on loan alongside Greek utility man Kostas Konstantinidis and Senegalese lunatic Djibril Diawara.

Allardyce said of Djorkaeff:

"We're not going to discuss his contract until the end of the season but if we don't stay in this division it'll be impossible to keep him," said Allardyce.

"When I flew over to meet him at Kaiserslautern, he said within an hour he'd like to join us. He came here to help us, and also to play first-team football.

"He's a very committed man. Since he's been here, he's got better and become more enthusiastic - and he's also got a high workrate for a man of 34.

"If Youri continues to perform as he did today, getting into the French World Cup squad would be a possibility for him."

Bolton's early season form had evaporated with just seven wins in seven months, which following a superb start to the season that had yielded three wins on the spin was nothing short of disastrous. Yet the pressure on manager Sam Allardyce was mild at best. We all knew he was a good'un.

So we went to Charlton more in hope than expectation. Wanderers had won just twice on the road all season, including a famous win at Manchester United back in October.

The home side had aspirations of qualifying for Europe following a run of good form which had taken them to seventh in the table.

Wanderers started the sharper of the two sides, with Djorkaeff scoring his first goal for the club in the 15th minute. Fredi Bobic beat his Charlton marker to a challenge from the right and crossed low into the penalty area. Djorkaeff was quicker than Portugese defender Jorge Costa to reach the ball, and turned a low shot into the far corner of goal to send the away support into delirium.

However, Bolton's defensive frailty was laid bare when Charlton spurned a chance to hit back when they were awarded a penalty. Captain Scott Parker was tripped by Paul Warhurst as he ran into the Bolton box, but former Wimbledon striker Jason Euell shot wide of goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskeleinen's post. Two thousand away fans breathed a sigh of relief.

Just 15 minutes later, Djorkaeff increased our lead. He curled a free-kick from 25 yards which took a wicked deflection and nestled in the net to the dismay of goalkeeper Dean Kiely.

Charlton's manager Alan Curbishley changed personnel at half time with the introduction of Finnish striker Jonatan Johansson as an extra forward, and was rewarded with a goal in the 52nd minute. Jason Euell took the ball round Jaaskelainen on the right of the penalty area and crossed for Johansson to head into an empty net.

This time, however, there was no comeback from the opposition. Bolton held firm and collected a vital three points.

Djorkaeff later said:

"My presence in the Bolton team is very important to my hopes of getting into the national team in June.

"The coach telephoned me first and told me not to worry, just to continue to play well for Bolton.

"As long as I'm playing regular football he knows I can do a job for the national team.

"I love playing in England. Every Saturday is exciting. It's always hard and a test for every player. My goals showed how much I want this team to stay up, and the spirit among the players is so strong.

"Hopefully my experience in the game can also help the other players, and it's also a new challenge for me because I'm used to fighting for trophies and not just playing to stay in the division.

"But I'm convinced we will stay up. This was a very important victory and hopefully this can be a turning point for our season."

Wanderers would achieve their aim of Premiership survival, finishing in 16th place following a run of three wins in four games in March and early April including a famous 4-1 home win over Ipswich thanks to a Bobic hat-trick.

The signing of Djorkaeff was made permanent that Summer, and he would play for France in the 2002 World Cup, allaying fears that his move to a relegation threatened side would harm things.

Line-Ups

Charlton: Dean Kiely, Rufus, Costa, Konchesky, Luke Young (Robinson 46), Chris Bart-Williams (Jonatan Johansson 46), Graham Stuart, Scott Parker, Chris Powell (Jonathan Fortune 88), Marcus Svensson, Jason Euell.
Subs Not Used: Sasa Ilic, Mark Kinsella.

Booked: Jason Euell.

Bolton: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Anthony Barness, Bruno N'Gotty, Paul Warhurst, Simon Charlton, Per Frandsen, Fredi Bobic (Michael Ricketts 77), Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Gardner, Youri Djorkaeff, Dean Holdsworth (Nicky Southall 72).
Subs Not Used: Kevin Poole, Bo Hansen, Rod Wallace.

Booked: Ricardo Gardner, Kevin Nolan.

Att: 26,358

Ref: Chris Foy (St. Helens).

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