It was a Knight that brought Wanderers to their knees in more ways than one.
Portman Road, May 17, 2000 – a balmy evening, which would soon turn into a barmy game. And two decades on, fans of both Bolton and Ipswich still recall events with polar opposite detail.
For the Tractor Boys it was a celebration. Jim Magilton carved his name into Suffolk lore with a hat-trick, fans danced on the pitch and George Burley’s men went on to Wembley still Singing the Blues to beat Barnsley 4-2.
They had seen a Bolton team overstep their mark, while their own had triumphed playing the sort of attack-minded football that helped them win over the neutrals as they finished fifth the following season in the top-flight.
For Sam Allardyce’s Wanderers, defeat on the night had been an unmitigated disaster.
Big Sam pulled no punches, launching into an unprecedented attack on referee Barry Knight, whose name has now passed into the Boltonian lexicon for something altogether more unsavoury.
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Allardyce was reprimanded by the Football Association for his comments after Wanderers - leading 3-2 in the dying seconds of normal time - had their Premiership dreams cruelly shattered after Magilton equalised to take the tie into extra-time. They eventually lost 5-3 (7-5 on aggregate) with Knight under fire for awarding Ipswich three penalties and doling out red cards to Paul Ritchie and Mike Whitlow, and 12 yellow cards in total to Bolton players, while the home side did not receive a single caution.
Allardyce was convinced Knight’s performance had been premeditated and that the consequences would set Bolton back years.
Certainly, he maintained the sales of Claus Jensen to Charlton and Eidur Gudjohnsen to Chelsea were as a direct result of not gaining promotion, which he felt sure his side would have done.
Speaking a few years later as Wanderers prepared for another trip to Ipswich, he said: "Even though the squad we've got here has done fantastically well, if we still had Eidur and Claus, we would be a much better squad.
"But they are the kind of players we just couldn't afford now. If we wanted Eidur he would cost us £6million, £7m or £8m, Claus would be £4m-£5m. So that's the cost of Mr Knight's performance that night."
But was Knight’s blundersome evening the worst refereeing performance Wanderers have ever had?
We list off a few more officiating nightmares to let you decide.
5. Manchester United v Bolton, 2008
Rob Styles at least sent his apologies to Bolton after awarding a farcical penalty against Jlloyd Samuel for a challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Traffford, with the game still goalless. United scored from spot, of course, and ended up winning 2-0.
4. Middlesbrough v Bolton, 2004
Mike Riley was happy to allow Bolo Zenden’s penalty at the Millennium Stadium despite the Dutchman slipping as he struck the ball, seemingly ‘kicking it twice’.
Allardyce was incandescent. And it wouldn’t be the last time Bolton fans took Riley’s name in vain.
3. Bolton v Wolves, 1977
Bolton needed to win to keep their promotion hopes alive. Burnden Park regulars could hardly believe their eyes as Kenny Hibbitt’s dodgy set piece goal was allowed to stand and Neil Whatmore’s seemingly fine finish was scrubbed out for offside.
2. Stoke v Bolton, 2012
Once again, victory was a must and this time Premier League survival was at stake. Quite how Chris Foy allowed Jonathan Walters’ first goal for Stoke when he had clearly barged Adam Bogdan was a mystery. He then doubled down with another nonsense decision to award a penalty in the second half against the Bolton keeper, converted again by Walters.
1. Bolton v Everton, 1997
‘The goal that never was’. Gerry Taggart’s header, potentially helped on by Nathan Blake, was hacked away by Terry Phelan. In theory, it ended up being the difference between survival and relegation for Colin Todd’s team that season.
Stephen Lodge was the referee, Phil Dowd the linesman, neither spotted that the ball had fallen a full foot behind the line. Oh for VAR…
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