Memorable Match: Bolton v Watford - 1999 Play-Off Final

Shaun Botterill /Allsport

Chris casts his mind back again and finds some unhappy memories

The 1998-1999 season was the 120th season in Bolton Wanderers' existence, and our first season back in the First Division after relegation from the Premier League the previous year.

Manager Colin Todd had retained the spine of his Premier League side, and Wanderers could count on names such as Dean Holdsworth, Nathan Blake and exciting young Icelandic star Arnar Gunnlaugsson amongst their striking options, putting Dougie Freedman's 2014 attacking problems into stark context.

Wanderers started the season well, going undefeated throughout August and September before a 1-2 home defeat to Watford.

The Watford manager at the time was former England boss Graham Taylor. He guided the team to the Play Offs following a fantastic run of seven wins from the final eight games of the season. Wanderers had been in with a shout of automatic promotion until a disastrous run of their own with just one win in seven in March and April.

Finishing a disappointing 6th to Watford's 5th, Bolton reached the Play Off Final:

Date

Round

Opponents

H / A

Result

F - A

Scorers

Attendance

16 May 1999

Semi-Final First Leg

Ipswich Town

H

1 - 0

Johansen 84'

18,295

19 May 1999

Semi Final Second Leg

Ipswich Town

A

3 - 4 (aet)
Bolton Wanderers win on away goals

Taylor 51', 96' Frandsen 84'

9,713

Watford themselves defeated a strong Birmingham side en route to Wembley:

Round

Date

Opponent

Venue

Result

Attendance

Goalscorers

SF 1st Leg

16 May 1999

Birmingham City

H

1-0

18,535

Ngonge

SF 2nd Leg

20 May 1999

Birmingham City

A

0-1 (Watford won 7-6 on pens)

29,100

Going into the game, Watford were considered underdogs by many, due to the amount of Premier League experience in the Bolton side. However, Graham Taylor's men hustled and bustled their opponents into submission, and scored both their goals at crucial moments, breaking Bolton hearts in the process to give a a fifth promotion for the Hornets under Taylor, and joy for a man whose career seemed all but over in 1993 after his tenure as England boss ended.

They were started on their way by one of the best goals seen in a play-off final from Wright, who connected with a cross in the 38th minute with a fantastic overhead kick after Peter Kennedy's corner was initially cleared by Andy Todd.

Despite this setback, Bolton could have taken the lead on two separate occasions before the goal through Eidur Gudjohnsen, but the striker could not capitalise on two very presentable chances.

Jamaican winger Ricardo Gardner played a lofed pass over the top of the Watford defence to put the striker into the area after evading the challenge of future Bolton defender Paul Robinson, but Gudjohnsen sliced wide of the Watford goal, with Alec Chamberlain beaten.

Minutes later, the same player had an even better chance, after Robbie Elliott's free-kick was deflected into his path from, and his powerful right footed shot from ten yards out was brilliantly saved by Chamberlain.

For Watford, Michel Ngonge almost cashed in on Wright's industry, the winger robbing Todd of the ball on the halfway line and playing his colleague in, only for full-back Elliott to make a superb last-ditch block.

In the second half, Bolton found it harder to break down the Watford defence and their struggles were exaggerated by the hot conditions, which left both sets of players wearily staggering around the Wembley turf during the final minutes.

Their best opening came on the hour, Gudjohnsen flicking the ball onto Gardner down the left and his low cross was turned over his own crossbar from six yards by skipper Robert Page.

Then, on 89 minutes, Wanderers sub Scott Sellars, lost possession and inadvertently prompted a Watford counter. Kennedy exploited the huge gaps on the Bolton right before squaring the ball for Smart, whose first time shot easily beat Steve Banks and secured the win for Watford.

The following season would see Wanderers dispense with Todd's services and appoint Sam Allardyce, who went on to transfer the fortunes of the club, turning them into a top eight Premier League side within a decade and leading the side to their debut in European football shortly after.

Watford however finished bottom of the Premier League and suffered relegation back to the First Division.

The Teams

Bolton:

GK

1

Steve Banks

RB

2

Neil Cox Substituted off 89'

LB

3

Robbie Elliott Booked

CM

4

Per Frandsen

CB

5

Andy Todd

CB

6

Mark Fish (captain)

RM

7

Michael Johansen Substituted off 66'

CM

8

Claus Jensen

CF

9

Eiður Guðjohnsen

CF

10

Bob Taylor

LM

11

Ricardo Gardner

Substitutes:

MF

12

Bo Hansen Substituted in 89'

MF

13

Scott Sellars Substituted in 66'

DF

14

Guðni Bergsson

Manager:

Colin Todd

Watford:

GK

1

Alec Chamberlain

RWB

2

Darren Bazeley

LWB

3

Peter Kennedy

CB

4

Robert Page (captain)

CB

5

Steve Palmer

CB

6

Paul Robinson

CM

7

Michel Ngonge

Substituted off 75'

CM

8

Micah Hyde

Booked

CF

9

Tommy Mooney

CM

10

Richard Johnson

CF

11

Nick Wright Substituted off 87'

Substitutes:

MF

12

Allan Smart Substituted in 75'

GK

13

Chris Day

DF

14

Alon Hazan Substituted in 87'

Manager:

Graham Taylor

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