By Chris Harris
Anyone who still doubts that Bolton are all graft and no craft just needs to watch the video of last month's FA Cup tie at Emirates Stadium.
Sam Allardyce's side were fully deserving of their 1-1 draw and even the Bolton manager's opposite number, Arsène Wenger, admitted that Kevin Nolan's opening goal was far more pleasing on the eye than Kolo Toure's late equaliser.
Now Bolton have Arsenal where they want them - back at the Reebok Stadium. After three successive wins over Wenger's men on home soil, you can forgive Bolton for fancying their chances in tonight's Fourth-Round replay.
We asked Gordon Sharrock of the Bolton Evening News for his insight ahead of the game. Read on to find out why the draw at Emirates was a missed opportunity, which key players could be missing tonight and why the FA Cup is more important to Allardyce than a top-four Premiership finish.
What was the reaction in Bolton to the draw at Emirates Stadium?
It could have been an away win. In the end it was a fair result but Bolton were only 12 minutes away from becoming the first visiting side to win at Emirates Stadium. People up here look back on Kevin Nolan's miss [when Manuel Almunia denied the Bolton captain] and think that Arsenal would have struggled to come back from going 2-0 down. Nolan himself and Bolton look back on that moment as a good save but a big miss. They feel that maybe Bolton had a good chance of wrapping up the tie without the need for a replay.
What did the Fourth-Round tie do for Bolton's reputation?
It was further evidence that Bolton can play good football. In fact it was a landmark result and a landmark performance in that respect because quite a few people have been slowly coming round to the fact that Bolton are not one-dimensional. The perception has gradually changed and to score a goal like Bolton did at the Emirates helped that. In fact, Arsenal scored a 'Bolton goal' in the first game. As for Bolton, you can't finish eighth, sixth and eighth and be challenging for the top four this season without having something about you other than direct football and physical strength. Quite a few people have acknowledged that and the Emirates performance went a long way to silencing the detractors.
How significant will home advantage be tonight?
These tussles have been very intriguing and the first goal is ever so crucial, especially if it comes six minutes from time as it did last season when Stelios scored the winner in the FA Cup. Usually when a club like Bolton goes away from home to a big side and gets a good result they fancy their chances back at their place. But I don't think it's any great advantage against Arsenal because the way they play can be just as effective away from home as it is at the Emirates. Kevin Nolan was saying this week that Bolton have not suddenly become favourites because they have home advantage.
What's more important for Bolton - a top-four finish or an FA Cup win?
If the choice was there Bolton would want the FA Cup. Sam Allardyce has said he'd swap a Champions League place for the FA Cup because Bolton won the first Final at Wembley in 1923 and they would love to win the first one at the new Wembley. More importantly, Sam wants some silverware to crown what he has done in seven years at Bolton. It has been a fantastic achievement and if he decides to leave after, say, 10 years at the Reebok, the club closest to his heart, he will want something tangible to go alongside the impressive finishes in the Premiership.
Sam has been seven years at Bolton and had two spells there as a player. He has done a magnificent job and a lot of people forget he had three Semi-Finals in his first season. Bolton got to the League Cup semi, the FA Cup semi when they lost to Aston Villa at Wembley, and they lost in the play-off semis too. They lost the League Cup Final to Middlesbrough the other year and Bolton need to win one of these showpiece games.
What is the latest Bolton team news ahead of the game?
Kevin Davies is still out with the ankle injury he picked up at Emirates. He played on with a chipped bone in his ankle, it says a lot about his character. Abdoulaye Faye is out after having an abscess taken out. Ivan Campo is back, he missed the win against Fulham at the weekend with a virus. There are doubts over Abdoulaye Meite and Gary Speed and that is a worry because, with Davies, that is the spine of the team. Sam has said that he will leave the decision to the players as to whether they are OK to play. He doesn't normally do that, it shows how important the likes of Speed are to Bolton.
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