Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quality B&B not to the Trotters' taste

Bolton 0 - 2 Newcastle Utd

Given our propensity for Boxing Day calamities (and a winless sequence stretching all the way back to 1988), a trip to Bolton - where we'd lost seven out of eight and suffered a 5-1 shellacking last season - was not really the post-Christmas fixture we'd asked Santa for. Thankfully, as it turned out the more telling pre-match stat was that the Trotters had been beaten in all but one of their home games this campaign, and we strolled to a comfortable victory.

Clinical finishing by B&B (HBA and Demba Ba) ultimately proved the difference between the two sides but arguably of equal importance was the return of Mike Williamson, who started a match for the first time since early May. If memories of the torrid time he endured at the Reebok last time out were playing on his mind, it certainly didn't show. The Silver Fox singling him out for post-match praise was also a comment on James Perch's efforts to fill the central defensive breach, of course - but, as harsh as it might seem, the truth is that Williamson looked to be the Premier League defender that Perch simply isn't.

A largely incident-free first half will have come as something of a relief to anyone in the sold-out crowd suffering from a pounding festive hangover, if not to the Match Of The Day editors. Raylor, restored to the starting line-up in place of the injured Davide Santon, forced Jussi Jaaskelainen into diving to push away a 25-yard free-kick, while Tim Krul had to do the same to deny Martin Petrov. Leon O'Best had an opportunity towards the end of the half but headed wide, his early-season golden touch seeming to have deserted him.

After the interval the Trotters' £4m turkey David Ngog helped create an opening for strike partner Ivan Klasnic, only for the Croatian to trip over his own feet. Helpfully for us, that haplessness soon spread throughout the home side. HBA, on for O'Best (who had left the pitch muttering his dissatisfaction with an entirely justifiable decision by the Silver Fox) on the hour mark, took just eight minutes to get onto the scoresheet. Chris Eagles surrendered possession cheaply to Spidermag, and the overlapping Raylor's low pull-back was elegantly stroked home on the volley by the substitute for only his second Toon goal.

Two minutes later we extended our advantage. This time it was Paul Robinson who gifted the ball to Mr T. Obertan Kenobi had time and space to measure his skidding cross into the six-yard area, where Ba made a monkey of Chelsea-bound Gary Cahill, darting in to slice the ball into the top corner. The Senegalese striker's two spectacular strikes against West Brom were ultimately without reward, so it was pleasing to see him notch an instinctive poacher's goal that did count.

Owen Coyle's response was to replace his front pairing with Kevin Davies and Tuncay, but neither the Trotters' oft-underestimated target man nor the ex-Smoggie could lever their side back into the game and we held out for a gift-wrapped win to cheer an away end in fine spirits (even the Spiderman hauled out by police...).

With the trip to Anfield and the home fixture against Man Utd to come, I don't think many would be prepared to claim that we've definitely emerged out the other side of our sticky period, but this was an unexpected and therefore particularly welcome result after our poor recent run.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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