Bolton hauled themselves out of the relegation zone with a victory over Manchester City, but it was achieved despite and not because of Gary Megson. With Ricardo Gardner in his best form for years, it was clear that he should be a starter. Clear to everyone apart from the Whites cack handed manager, that is.
An injury to Musptapha Riga on the stroke of half-time forced him to bring on the Jamaica captain and Bolton were a far more effective force from then on. Fans will quite rightly look to the games against Spurs and Everton, where Gardner didn`t feature, and speculate about points lost.
City had marginally the best of a dull first half, with Jussi Jaaskelainen, saving efforts from Stephen Ireland, Ched Evans and most notably Robinho. In his 400th game for Bolton the Finnish stopper demonstrated the reasons for his longevity. Bolton had one noteworthy effort, when Kevin Davies headed narrowly wide.
Things improved for the home side after the break, thanks to Gardner`s incisive running and Kevin Nolan`s performance in the centre of midfield. The goal, when it came, was an accurate reflection of the balance of play at that point.
Matthew Taylor dispossessed Robinho and sent Fabrice Muamba away down the right. He cut inside, before passing to Nolan. The Whites captain laid the ball off right to Gretar Steinsson and his low cross was turned in by Gardner off the cross bar. Mark Hughes was ready with the ‘you know what to expect from Bolton` routine after the game. The City manager wasn`t drawn as to whether he anticipated conceding from a five-man passing move played on the break.
Bolton doubled their lead two minutes before the end. There were only four players involved this time, Mr Hughes. Jlloyd Samuel received the ball on the left flank and put it into the path of Gardner, who outpaced City`s defence. He played the ball across the face of goal and under pressure from Kevin Davies, Richard Dunne, put through his own goal.
The second half performance will give hope to Wanderers fans. As will the improved display from Kevin Nolan. But Megson will need to raise his game if Bolton are to stay out of the drop zone. The win at West Ham proved to be a false dawn. It must be hoped that last night`s victory is the real thing. Over to you Ginge.
Jussi Jaaskelainen 7
Three very decent saves that are seen as run of the mill for the Finn.
Gretar Steinsson 6
More solid than of late and did well on the first goal.
Gary Cahill 6
Relatively untroubled at the heart of defence.
Andy O’Brien 6
The other half of the Chuckle Brothers had some amends to make after the goal that Everton scored. Just about did the job
Jlloyd Samuel 7
Another impressive display on the left side of defence. Made a superlative interception with Robinho lurking.
Kevin Nolan 8
His best performance for two years. Ran the midfield in the second half and showed mobility and vision. Vital Bolton plans to have him disposed of are on hold.
Matt Taylor 5
Should be given credit for starting the move that led to the opener, but too often ineffective.
Fabrice Muamba 6
An energetic and willing runner. Less clueless than usual.
Kevin Davies 6
Gavin McCann 6
Not his most conspicuous game, but managed not to cock anything up.
Mustapha Riga 6
Not up the rigours of Premier League life yet.
Ricardo Gardner 9
His incisive running added another dimension to Bolton’s midfield after the break. Has Richard Dunne (who clogged Riga) to thank for his introduction.