It is 15 years to the day since over 1,500 Wanderers fans celebrated a famous win on their first foray on European soil.
Kevin Nolan’s superb winner against Lokomotiv Plovdiv, in the UEFA Cup first round second leg, was a landmark moment for Bolton.
But it was almost a different story against the unfancied Belgians, who hosted Tottenham Hotspur in a Europa League second round qualifier earlier this month, losing 2-1.
Against Bolton, Loko themselves were on unfamiliar territory having to play 200 miles away at the Naftex Stadium in Bourgas – a port city in the Black Sea – because their own ground failed to meet UEFA guidelines.
Wanderers boss Sam Allardyce – with one eye on the important Premiership derby with Wigan Athletic – made SEVEN changes to the team that had beaten Portsmouth five days earlier, including debuts for Ian Walker, Joey O’Brien, Fabrice Fernandes and Jared Borgetti.
After an uneventful and goalless first half, the new-look line-up was rocked by Georgi Iliev's unstoppable 30-yard strike six minutes into the second half.
Having had to come from behind to win the first leg 2-1, their UEFA dream was in danger of becoming a one-tie nightmare.
Fearful, in particular, of letting down the Wanderers fans who had made the journey, Allardyce acted, sending on Nolan, Kevin Davies and Hidetoshi. And in the final 10 minutes the game dramatically swung back in his side’s favour.
There was an element of luck involved as Loko full-back Alexander Tunchev turned Henrik Pedersen's cross into his own net. A fortuitous equaliser on the night, it would have been enough for Wanderers on aggregate.
But Nolan rounded off a quality move involving Pedersen and Davies with a first-time shot from the edge of the box to win it late on.
"With hindsight, conceding the goal was probably the best thing that happened to us," a relieved Allardyce said afterwards. "It got us on the front foot.
"We hadn't created very much at all because we were so frightened about the slender lead and we wanted to protect it, but the bigger players came off the bench and made a big contribution for us."
Lokomotiv Plovdiv: Stoyan Kolev, Ivanov, Tunchev, Georgi Iliev, Kotev, Vandev (Stoinev 62), Krasimir Dimitrov, Krizmanic (Halimi 80), Jancevski, Djordani, Robert Petrov.
Subs Not Used: Martin Kamburov, Dimitar Iliev, Georgiev, Hristev, Zlatinov.
Goals: Georgi Iliev 51.
Bolton: Walker, N'Gotty, Okocha, Fernandes (Nolan 56), Borgetti (Davies 56), Giannakopoulos, O'Brien (Nakata 66), Faye, Ben Haim, Diouf, Pedersen.
Subs Not Used: Jaaskelainen, Gardner, Vaz Te, Fojut.
Goals: Tunchev 79 og, Nolan 86.
Ref: Jouni Hyytia (Finland).
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