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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 10:25 GMT
Bolton suffer semi-final heartbreak
Mark Fish
Mark Fish tackles Ipswich's David Johnson
Bolton suffered the bitter disappointment of finishing empty- handed after reaching three semi-finals.

It was heartbreak as Wanderers lost a Worthington Cup semi-final 4-0 to Tranmere over two legs.

But the real disappointment came in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Aston Villa at Wembley, and the first division play-off loss at Ipswich Town.

Bolton struggled to fulfil their potential at the start of the season, and eventually Colin Todd resigned after being told he had to sell Per Frandsen to Blackburn to help balance the books..

Caretaker Phil Brown took charge, but he was eventually succeeded at the Reebok Stadium by another old boy from the Burnden Park glory days, Sam Allardyce.

Allardyce left Notts County in controversial circumstances, but a return to his spiritual football home was something he could not reject.

He guided Bolton towards Wembley in the Worthington Cup, but could have no complaints about a heavy defeat over the two legs against cup specialists Tranmere.

Bolton swiftly regained their composure, thanks in no small measure to the quality of Mark Fish at the back and the brilliance of Eidur Gudjohnsen in attack.

They deservedly reached the FA Cup semi-finals, and it was only a crucial late miss from Dean Holdsworth that denied them a win in normal time.

Michael Johansen
Michael Johansen contemplates FA Cup semi-final defeat by Aston Villa

Sadly, Bolton's nerve failed them in a penalty shoot out and Villa ran out easy 4-1 winners.

It was a tribute to Bolton's mental strength that a last day win against Norwich City took them into the play-offs.

And when they took a two-goal lead against Ipswich at home, it all looked good for another Wembley appearance.

Marcus Stewart scored twice for Ipswich to restore equality and keep things in the balance in the second leg.

But on a night of high drama at Portman Road, Bolton perhaps suffered their biggest agony of all.

They led 3-2 until the last minute, but an equaliser from Jim Magilton broke their resistance and Ipswich ran out 5-3 winners after extra time.

Bolton had nine players booked and two sent off, Mike Whitlow and Robbie Elliott.

It was a bitter night, but amid all the disappointments, there was no disguising the quality of Bolton's performances, although the loss of Gudjohnsen to Chelsea is a major loss.

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