Today’s the day. The one that Bolton Wanderers fans have been waiting 11 years for. This is it. All that can be possibly said in the build-up has been.
After really strong possession, a chance or two, and a denied penalty in the first ten minutes, Bolton were made to pay for a costly mistake at the back. Paul Robinson received the ball on the wing just outside the box and with a Stoke attacker rushing on, Robbo tried playing the ball center to Elmander. With the ball just behind him, Etherington was first to it and his curling shot from outside the box went to the far post and past Jussi. 0-1.
Just minutes later, Huth doubled the advantage for Stoke after the ball fell to him outside of the box. Hitting it with the outside of his foot on the half volley, Jaaskelainen was a step slow to get to his left as the ball bounced into the back of the net. 0-2.
30th minute now, Petrov on the wing. The midfielder tried to lay the ball off and ended up giving it right to Stoke who broke right away. A brilliant through ball played through to Kenwyne Jones and a tiny little chip over Jaaskelainen makes it 0-3. Implosion.
John Walters put it beyond any doubt in the 69th minute. Cutting it back at the top of the box, Walters let rip. Jaaskelainen had no shot at it as the ball hit the side netting to make it 0-4.
To pile on the pain, Walters decided to make it 5. A ball played from Kenwyne Jones across the box and a little dink from Walters over the sliding Jaaskelainen. More pain and no more words about this match.
The worst possible way to start the match saw Bolton lose it long before all was said and done. By far the worst Wanderers performance of the season. No inspiration in any part of the field. The occasion seemed to get to the players and they never recovered. The road to Wembley was a tough one that saw us face three Premier League sides before Stoke. It took luck, guts, and composure after a season of loss to injury and our one & only Nat Lofthouse.
I said on Twitter prior to the start of the match:
And I stand by it. Who saw this Bolton side making it anywhere near this far? Yes, the loss is disappointing and disheartening but we still have a chance at Europe. A strong finish to the season could still see that happen, no matter how difficult it will be. The goal at the beginning of the year was the top half. The rest of the way isn’t exactly easy with Arsenal at home and Fulham away in the next two weeks but it can be done.