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Beating Blackburn Memories - 2006

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2006: Campo, Jaaskelainen, Benni McCarthy and all that

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Blackburn Rovers is the one for me. Especially at Ewood Park.

It's the one game of the season where I get PMT - pre-match tension. Of all the trips to Ewood over the years, this one sticks out. Not the seven goal thriller, not El Hadji Diouf's spectacular dive past Brad Friedel, and definitely not "let's play Sebastian Puygrenier in midfield" from the Megson era. It's the Jussi Jaaskelainen derby of 2006.

Let's start by drinking in the Bolton Wanderers starting lineup from that day.

Jussi Jaaskelainen; Nicky Hunt, Abdoulaye Faye, Abdoulaye Meite, Tal Ben Haim; Kevin Nolan, Ivan Campo, Gary Speed; Kevin Davies, Nicolas Anelka, El Hadji Diouf.

What a team. And Nicky Hunt.

The game itself was relatively unspectacular. Sam Allardyce, now building a resilient team in the post- Djorkaeff and Okocha era, set the team up to be hard to break down. And that we were. Bolton went into the game on the back of three consecutive wins, and the best defensive record in the Premier League so far that season, conceding only 4 goals.

The breakthrough came when Ivan Campo rose unmarked in the box to thunder a header home from 8 yards. Cue the matador celebration. Hashtag scenes.

Blackburn, who weren't actually that shabby under Mark Hughes, began to press forward, with the poor man's Ivan Campo, Tugay, coming close with a long range effort, which was saved in typically top class fashion by the Flying Finn.

Blackburn had a claim for a goal in the first half when Zurab Khizanishvili had a header saved by Jaaskelainen, which both he and Mark Hughes claimed had crossed the line.

Wanderers nearly hit Blackburn on the counter attack, with Brad Friedel saving well from Kevin Nolan, but the controversy was just beginning, and Our Kev wasn't far from it.

Quinton Fortune, who had replaced the injured Abdoulaye Faye at half time, kicked off the late drama when he fouled Jason Roberts in the box. A penalty was awarded, and Benni McCarthy stepped up. Only he hadn't read the script. A script that Jussi Jaaskelainen had written himself. Diving to his left, Jussi saved McCarthy's effort. A massive let off.

Just as Wanderers' fans heart rates returned to anything near healthy, another penalty was awarded, Roberts again fouled, this time by double act Gary Speed and Nicky Hunt. Relegated from penalty taking duties after his miss, McCarthy allowed Roberts to step up. Surely they couldn't miss two late penalties?

Yes.

Yes they could.

Jaaskelainen to the rescue once again. Two penalty saves in three minutes. Imagine having that in your fantasy football team.

In the heat of the devastation (Blackburn end), hysteria (Bolton end) and confusion (both), Kevin Nolan was shown a straight red card for foul and abusive language towards referee Mike Dean. Expert lip readers will see Kevin Nolan shouting "f**king justice" into Dean's face when the second penalty was saved.

What a captain. What a man. God, I miss him.

Wanderers held on for what felt like 700 minutes of injury time for the win. The three points took Bolton into third place in the Premier League, just two points behind Jose Mourinho's Chelsea and Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United.

Read that again, please. Three times for good measure. How the mighty have fallen. Allardyce said in his post-game presser that "we weren't at our best", and ranked Jussi "up there with Petr Cech and Edwin Van Der Sar". At that time, he wasn't far wrong.

At his best, Jussi was top, top class. And so were we.