Football: Blake takes Bolton nearer to top flight

Bolton Wanderers 1 West Bromwich Albion 0
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The Independent Online
A superb goal from Nathan Blake - his 21st of the season - settled an untidy game at Burnden Park yesterday and enabled Bolton to open up a 12-point lead at the top of the Nationwide League First Division.

Blake's 30-yard left-foot shot after 34 minutes proved enough to see off a weak West Bromwich challenge. In blustery conditions, the margin of Bolton's win would have been greater but for the heroics of Albion's goalkeeper Alan Miller, who is on loan from Middlesbrough.

Miller made a superb save to deny Wanderers' top scorer, John McGinlay, and then went one better to pull off an acrobatic effort to keep out a free-kick from Per Frandsen. McGinlay also wasted two chances while Frandsen was desperately unlucky to beat Miller only to see his shot bounce back off a post.

Albion posed little threat and their only decent efforts, from David Smith and Bob Taylor, were easily dealt with by Bolton's keeper, Keith Branagan.

Albion also had three players booked - Ian Hamilton, Paul Raven, and Paul Agnew - while there was also a caution for Wanderers' Jamie Pollock.

Colin Todd, Bolton's manager, was understandably delighted with the result. "That's a tremendous win courtesy of a tremendous goal from Nathan Blake," he said.

"To assess that game you have to look at our goalkeeper, Keith Branagan, who didn't have one difficult save to make compared to their keeper, who made some excellent saves," Todd added. "I never felt we were in danger of losing the match and thought they came with a negative attitude."

Ray Harford, the West Bromwich manager, who had to endure an unhappy return to the North-west following his spell in charge of Blackburn, was still keen to defend his side.

"Conditions weren't easy but we stuck at it and I was pleased with our defending," Harford said. "It was easier to destruct than construct and Alan Miller had a great game in goal for us. He was a big plus.

"We showed good discipline and organisation and there was a time that I thought Bolton were running out of ideas," Harford added. "We were missing a couple of key strikers and were always going to be a little bit paperweight up front."

Goal: Blake (1-0) 34.

Bolton Wanderers: Branagan; Bergsson, Phillips, Pollock, Taggart, Fairclough, Frandsen, Sellars, Blake, McGinlay, Lee (Johansen, 61). Substitutes not used: Sheridan, Paatelainen.

West Bromwich Albion: Miller; Holmes, Agnew (Potter, 75), Sneekes, Murphy, Raven, Donovan, Smith (Rodosthenous, 45), Taylor, Butler, Hamilton. Substitute not used: Joseph.

Referee: J Kirkby (Sheffield).

Bookings: Bolton: Pollock. West Bromwich: Hamilton, Agnew, Raven.

Man of the match: Miller.

Attendance: 13,258.