Football: Gudjohnsen shapes Bolton's destiny

Bolton Wanderers 2 Wimbledon 1
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The Independent Online
IT'S PROBABLY appropriate for an Icelander to blow hot and cold, but Eidur Gudjohnsen almost abused the privilege as Bolton moved to within one tie of a return visit to Wembley for a Worthington Cup final.

The Wanderers, beaten there by Liverpool in 1995, have just that other Merseyside team, Tranmere Rovers, to negotiate in the semi-finals. Whether they can do so or not will depend largely on whether Gudjohnsen or Badjohnsen steps forward over those two legs.

The enigmatic striker, the subject of transfer bids by Derby County, scored one of the outstanding goals of the season to equalise, committed one of the more glaring misses in front of an open goal, was booked for dissent and hit the post. Apart from that, he had a fairly quiet night.

Gudjohnsen was part of a Bolton team which, despite two recent morale- sapping defeats in the League, played with poise and confidence from the start against their regular Worthington Cup opponents of the last four seasons.

It was against the run of play that Wimbledon took the lead after 17 minutes, John Hartson taking a pass from Jason Euell, shrugging off the attentions of Gudni Bergsson and cutting out Mike Whitlow with a cleverly angled pass to Carl Cort.

He shot across Jussi Jaaskelainen to score inside the far post, although the goalkeeper would have been disappointed not to keep the ball out after getting both hands onto it.

Cort and Wimbledon could have had a second on the half hour when he collected a pass from Euell in a similar position. This time his shot came back off the inside of the post.

Wimbledon's frustration at that narrow miss was compounded three minutes later when Gudjohnsen dribbled past four defenders to side-foot calmly past Neil Sullivan for the most spectacular of his nine goals so far this season.

But if his transfer value suddenly escalated with that display of virtuosity, it should equally have dipped a couple of notches three minutes later when he spurned a sitter teed up for him by Bob Taylor.

Almost immediately, however, Taylor was held down by Robbie Earle as he tried to get his head to a ball in the area. Alan Wilkie awarded a penalty without hesitation and Michael Johansen drove it past Sullivan.

Such was the ease with which both sides were creating chances in a thoroughly enterprising contest that it seemed inconceivable that this would be the end of the scoring and Hartson and Cort both went close for Wimbledon with headers on either side of half-time.

Bolton, although defending doggedly, remained dangerous on the break and had inviting chances of their own when Whitlow broke through and chose to square the ball rather than taking the responsibility himself. And, 10 minutes from time, Gudjohnsen's shot from close range bounced to safety off the foot of the post. That could have eased Bolton's nerves during closing stages which saw Hartson again go desperately close.

"You won't see a better goal than that anywhere in the world this season," said the Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, of Gudjohnsen's solo effort. If the Icelander could also put away the simple ones, the Wanderers might be hard to deny in what remains of this competition.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Holden, Bergsson, Fish, Whitlow; Johansen, Elliott, Jensen, Gardner (Aljofree, 88); Gudjohnsen (Hansen, 86), Taylor (Strong, 80). Substitutes not used: Passi, Banks (gk).

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan; Ardley (Leaburn, 70), Andersen, Cunningham, Kimble; Cort, Earle, Roberts, Euell; Hartson, Gayle. Substitutes not used: Hughes, Waehler, Badir, Davis (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

Photograph, page 27