Perhaps it is fitting that in a week where refereeing has been central to the discussion at Wanderers, it should end in a visit to Portman Road.
On Tuesday night, Peterborough official Joshua Smith grabbed the headlines with two big calls in the 0-0 draw against Burton Albion, captured by the live Sky Sports cameras.
Opinion remains split – at least if you factor the views around the Pirelli Stadium – that Kieran Lee’s ‘goal’ should have been ruled out for offside against Eoin Doyle. That Bolton were also denied a late penalty for a shove on Nathan Delfouneso at a corner appears a more open-and-shut case.
Ian Evatt’s anger on Monday night was hard to miss. Having already been booked by referee Smith, the Wanderers boss did tempt fate by approaching the officials after the final whistle to have one final say.
As is his right, he also waited to speak to Smith again 30 minutes after the final whistle, admitting to the local press later the same night that he wished he hadn’t bothered.
It was with gritted teeth that the local media gathered to see what Evatt had to say when he finally did make his way to the third-floor media suite, to take his chair in front of the microphones and cameras. And though the press officer watched nervously from the wings, the Bolton boss wisely chose to step carefully around the issue, praising his side’s performance above all else.
That may be interpreted as a moment of maturation for Evatt, still a young manager at the age of 39, and one whose emotions are usually right at the surface during those post-match interviews.
It potentially helped that the cameras had caught the incident in question for the whole country to see. The injustice Evatt felt at Tranmere Rovers last season, for example, was harder to convey to the wider public.
It will fall on the experienced shoulders of ex-Premier League ref Robert Madley to preside over Saturday’s game at Ipswich, a trip which for a couple of decades has been hard to make without mention of another infamous official.
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Barry Knight, now retired at the age of 61, will forever be the man Bolton Wanderers fans love to hate for his role in the First Division play-off semi-final defeat against Ipswich on May 17, 2000.
The match is regarded as one of the great comebacks down in Suffolk, where George Burley’s entertaining side battled back on the night to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit with a hat-trick from Jim Magilton, a last-minute equaliser, and two goals in extra time against nine men having never previously led in the tie.
In these parts, and still to this day by Sam Allardyce, the narrative goes a little differently as 12 yellow cards, two red cards to Bolton players on the night and three penalties awarded to the home side seemed to add weight to the Bolton manager’s claim that Knight “held a grudge” – particularly as not a card was shown in the Ipswich direction.
Knight refused to comment on the controversy, locking himself away in his dressing room on the night despite several raps on the door from waiting reporters and, predictably, from Big Sam himself.
There was no begrudging Ipswich their success as they went on to beat Barnsley 4-2 in the final to claim a place in the Premier League.
Allardyce talked his way into trouble with the Football Association and never forgave Knight.
"He could have done untold damage to this football club that will be felt over the next two years. You just don't know how long it might take us to get into a position like this again," Allardyce had maintained.
Ipswich went on – with Allardyce and Bolton’s best wishes – to beat Barnsley in the final.
Wanderers, of course, would join Ipswich in the Premier League just 12 months later but not before the club was forced to sell some of its finest talents in Eidur Gudjohnsen, Mark Fish and Claus Jensen to balance the books.
Their next visit to Ipswich was a 2-1 win in November 2001, thanks to goals from Gudni Bergsson and Michael Ricketts – and that result stands as their last league victory at Portman Road some two decades later.
Fredi Bobic’s hat-trick at the Reebok that same season accelerated Ipswich’s relegation from the top-flight and, incredibly, the Tractor Boys have yet to return.
Henrik Pedersen and Stelios were on the scoresheet in a 3-1 FA Cup win at Portman Road in 2005 but the jinx remains one that Ian Evatt’s current crop look capable of shifting.
Referee Madley took charge of Wanderers’ promotion-clinching win at Crawley last season, so for the sake of all concerned it would be a fine thing indeed if he does not get a mention in the post-match interviews, let alone articles like this 21 years later!
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