Bolton Wanderers prepared for VAR in play-off final against Oxford United

In the week that Wolves tabled a motion to have the controversial system removed from the Premier League, it has been confirmed that match referee Sam Barrott will have the aid of Peter Bankes and Sian Massey-Ellis 40 minutes down the road at Stockley Park.

Both Ian Evatt and Des Buckingham will hope to be talking about the football played on the pitch on Saturday but both clubs do at least have brief experience of playing with VAR in the cup competitions, having not had it in use for the entire League One campaign and the play-offs.

In January, Wanderers held Premier League Luton Town to a goalless draw at Kenilworth Road, a game in which Hatters boss Rob Edwards questioned whether a second-half penalty box challenge on Alfie Doughty by Will Forrester warranted a second look.

Oxford’s experience was in the system’s infancy, back in January 2020, when their FA Cup trip to Newcastle United involved VAR but – like Bolton – the consequent replay did not.

The likes of Sam Long, Elliott Moore and Simon Eastwood remain in the squad from that game, drawn 0-0 before a 3-2 defeat at the Kassam Stadium.

Evatt is relaxed, having brought Premier League referee Darren Bond into the training ground at the start of the year to speak with his players about the ‘dos and don’ts’.

“We have had a taste of it, which is good, with the Luton game,” he said.

“Fortunately for us there was no real controversy. I certainly don’t enjoy the Premier League games and highlights every week, seeing what is a goal, what is not a goal, not being able to celebrate, etc. That is going to be a strange feeling.

“But we have had a taste of it so we know what to expect.”

With so much at stake, Cameron Jerome feels it is right to leave nothing to chance.

“We have played with it in the FA Cup so we had a little bit of an experiment with it this year,” he said. “Whether it is right or wrong, there is a lot on the line in a game of this magnitude, so you would like to think that sort of technology would be available to call those fractional offsides, fouls and things that the naked eye might not pick up on.”

Dion Charles seemed positively excited by the prospect.

The Wanderers striker smirked that he might finally get some of the free kicks that he is due if there are an extra set of eyes on the game.

“I have played with it a few times, played for Northern Ireland with it, and you can’t think too much into it, you have to play the exact same way,” he said. “If anything, it helps you, because I get fouled a lot. Now the referees might have to see it!”

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