WANDERERS will hope the build-up to their latest FA Cup clash with Stockport County proves less eventful than the last.

Back in January 2002, Sam Allardyce’s Premier League new boys were finding life tough as a string of injuries and suspensions bit hard into a slender squad.

On the pitch, the fight was still there. Dean Holdsworth had grabbed a scruffy equaliser at Anfield to take a point at Liverpool and second-half goals by Kevin Nolan and Michael Ricketts had helped them battle back to save a draw at home to Chelsea.

But behind the scenes the problems were totting up and the postponement of a third round clash at Edgeley Park because of a frozen pitch left Allardyce to negotiate a midweek game his side could have done without.

Colin Hendry, Bruno N’Gotty and Mike Whitlow were injured, and both Dean Holdsworth and Paul Warhurst suspended. To make matters worse, the club were also contending with disciplinary issues behind the scenes.

Senegalese defensive midfielder Djibril Diawara was on the verge of being sacked by the club for “serious offences contravening pre-match curfews on drinking” – and it was on the eve of the rescheduled cup tie at County that his final indiscretion had forced the club’s hand.

Diawara maintained that he had been stopped by police after celebrating his birthday with friends and that it gave Bolton’s directors “an excuse” to tear up his loan contract from Torino.

Either way, the selection issues were pressing enough for Allardyce draft in untested keeper Jani Viander for his debut and to ask Kevin Nolan to come off the bench to play centre-half during the game, so as not to tire out Gudni Bergsson.

Youngsters Wayne Buchanan and Cleveland Taylor were drafted on to the bench for a flavour of first team football.

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Striker Fredi Bobic had been signed days earlier on loan from Borussia Dortmund but was ineligible to play. Instead, the German international turned out for the reserves, scoring in a 2-1 win against Manchester City at Hyde United.

Wanderers had problems as they tried to cling on to their Premier League status but the same could be said for opponents County, who were in the middle of what would prove their worst season of all-time.

Andy Kilner had been sacked, replaced by ex-England midfielder Carlton Palmer. But the Hatters had 10 straight games by the time they hosted Bolton on a chilly night by the Mersey, and rarely looked like causing an upset.

Icelandic skipper Bergsson would almost certainly have been rested had it not been for the lack of options at the back for Allardyce, and he put his side ahead just moments after a heated skirmish with home winger Kevin Ellison.

Heading home a cross from Gareth Farrelly, Bergsson was subbed at the break for Nolan, but not before playing a part in Bolton’s second on 42 minutes, scored by youngster David Norris past ex-Whites loanee Andy Dibble.

Henrik Pedersen had squandered a few chances in the first half but made the game safe on 72 minutes, getting on the end of a low ball from substitute Michael Ricketts.

There had been a clamour for Ricketts to get into the England squad, led by Allardyce, and it grew louder after he rounded things off with a brilliant fourth, turning County player-boss Palmer inside out before driving into the top corner just before the end.

Jon Daly then grabbed a consolation in injury time for Stockport after Nicky Southall was penalised for handball.

Wanderers announced the next day that Diawara had left the club.

"Djibril Diawara's contract has been terminated with immediate effect after he was in breach of several club disciplinary issues, including a serious offence contravening pre-match curfews on drinking,” a statement read.

"We can't condone whatsoever the way Djibril has conducted himself over the last few weeks. We are extremely disappointed in his actions and the club have had no alternative but to terminate his contract."

Ricketts – now on 15 goals for the season – was a month away from getting his England cap against Holland, and his call-up was predicted after the final whistle at Edgeley Park by his team-mate Ricardo Gardner.

“I definitely think he will play for England,” said the Jamaican. “People might think Michael is being held back because he plays for Bolton but I prefer to think of it the other way.

“He has scored brilliant goals against all the top teams. People will see that and I do not think it will be long before he gets a chance to play for his country.”

Wanderers: Viander, Southall, Bergsson, Barness, Gardner; Johnson, Norris, Farrelly, Hansen; Wallace, Pedersen. Subs: Poole, Nolan, Ricketts, Buchanan, Taylor.