Bolton's gift for self-destruction

Football: Bolton Wanderers 1 Coventry City 2
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The Independent Online

Bolton Wanderers 1 Coventry City 2

Advocates of summer football would have been rubbing their hands, noses and toes with glee. Spiteful conditions produced a game high in thrills and low in ability, the exact combination that strategists feel the need to reverse.

Whether a balmy afternoon and virgin turf could have inspired these two strugglers to greater heights is conjecture, but Bolton's keeper, Keith Branagan, would have appreciated the option. Only when his central nervous system thaws will he be able to rationalise his intentions when Coventry were gifted the points in the dying seconds.

Bolton's co-manager, Roy McFarland, feels it will take longer. "For the rest of his life Branagan won't know why he did it, but he has been excellent for us this season and he has been our saviour more than once," he said. It is also going to take longer than the fans' patience permits for McFarland to manufacture a genuine Premiership outfit.

Just one month ago, with Bolton already rooted to the bottom, McFarland and his colleague, Colin Todd, were applauded to the bench. However, their side's capacity for self-destruction left a section of the crowd demonstrating against the management team. Though the home side once again exhibited the ability to live in the top flight, it was only a brief flirtation and, like Coventry, enthusiasm overshadowed composure.

The managerial styles of the two camps were a perfect contrast, the Bolton duo agitated and excitable on the touchline while Ron Atkinson plotted from the stands. Neither method succeeded in imposing any pattern on a game where chances galore went begging.

Bolton started the brighter, Sasa Curcic's cross for John McGinlay's opener a rare moment of quality. Coventry survived a spell of extreme pressure to begin to threaten Branagan's goal: Noel Whelan turned sharply in the area to create a sweet strike and capitalise on Coventry pressure instigated by Branagan dropping a swirling cross.

The visitors maintained their domination until Bolton found second wind, eventually adapting to the tactical switch of moving the tricky Curcic from the head of a diamond four-man midfield to the right side.

A point for Bolton seemed a fair reflection - until the keeper's goof. Having trapped a back pass, Branagan opted to dummy the approaching Whelan but, having lost possession, hacked him down. John Salako's penalty completed yet another smash and grab raid at Burnden Park.

Goals: McGinlay (16) 1-0; Whelan (44) 1-1; Salako (pen 90) 1-2.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Branagan; Green, Fairclough, Taggart, Phillips; Sneekes, Todd, Curcic, Sellars; McGinlay, Blake. Substitutes not used: McAnespie, Burnett, De Freitas.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Pickering, Busst, Shaw, Hall; Telfer, Boland, Williams, Salako; Dublin, Whelan. Substitutes not used: Rennie, Strachan, Filan (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

Bookings: Bolton: Fairclough, Curcic, Branagan. Coventry: Williams, Shaw, Dublin, Telfer.

Man of the match: Williams.

Attendance: 16,678.