Watford 0 Bolton 1: Boothroyd's nightmare becomes all too real

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The Independent Football

Was this the game that finally broke Watford's spirit? Throughout the season, while everyone else has been mentioning the dreaded "r" word, Adrian Boothroyd has steadfastly stuck to his belief that there are three worse teams than his in the Premiership. Some might call it kidology yet for the first time, in public at least, even the manager is now beginning to have serious doubts.

A cursory "yes" was a tetchy Boothroyd's response when asked if his pride was hurt following this latest setback. Watford may receive two years' worth of parachute payments when, rather than if, they go down but that is scant consolation to the Premiership's youngest manager.

"All I'm thinking about is now," said Boothroyd, whose team's next two games are against West Ham United and Wigan. The strain is beginning to show. "Our ability to defend and our ability to attack, which are quite important," was Boothroyd's sarcastic take on where Watford are going wrong before he checked himself to add: "I'm sorry, I'm miserable and moody."

With failure - and Boothroyd himself would call it that - almost inevitable, it was easy to sympathise with his lot. Sam Allardyce, conversely, is dreaming of sneaking into a Champions League spot after Nicolas Anelka's second-half strike secured a first Premiership win of 2007 following a rocky patch to keep Bolton in fifth.

"If we could do it, for us it would be like winning the League with 120 points," said Allardyce. "That's how big it would be with our resources and our spending power and our squad. It would be history making, for me particularly. You couldn't go any higher. It's going to be hard for us, we know the big boys are all on a good run at the moment."

Refrehingly in an era dripping with financial ambition, Allardyce would trade a Champions League spot for winning the FA Cup. "It would be unbelievable. The first to play there in 1923, the White Horse final. To be the first to play in the new Wembley would be a dream come true. But that's a long haul as well."

Despite having an off-day like nearly everyone else in a dire game - only Anelka played anywhere near his usual level - the Bolton captain Kevin Nolan can feel unfortunate to have again been omitted from the England squad. "I'm a bit surprised," said his midfield partner, Gary Speed. "I've played alongside Kevin for three seasons and the success we've had has been hugely down to him.

"The fact he plays for Bolton, because of the way we are perceived to play, I don't think does him any favours. It's going to be difficult for him because of the talent England have in that area, but I thought maybe he'd have got a chance this time."

Goals: Anelka (63) 0-1.

Watford (4-4-2) Foster; Mariappa, DeMerit, Mackay, Stewart; Williamson (Williams 46), Mahon, Francis (Kabba 77),Bouazza (McNamee 68); Henderson, Hoskins. Substitutes not used: Lee, Doyley.

Bolton (4-4-2) Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Meite, Faye, Ben Haim; Nolan, Campo, Speed, Diouf (Pedersen 80); Anelka, Giannakopoulos (Teymourian 50). Substitutes not used: Walker, Gardner, Tal.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Bookings: Bolton Faye, Teymourian, Jaaskelainen.

Man of the match: Anelka.

Attendance: 18,722.