Football: Blake's heaven

Southampton 0 Bolton Wanderers 1 Blake 43 Attendance: 15,206
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The Independent Online
A solitary Nathan Blake goal just before half-time was enough to put a winning, new-term smile on Bolton faces. This is a far different Bolton outfit to the one who leaked so many goals and shot straight out of the Premiership two seasons ago. Here their defence, with Gerry Taggart and Gudni Bergsson at its heart, was uncompromisingly solid and easily shrugged off a progressively lacklustre Southampton attack.

Bolton's midfield too has a business-like confidence to it. Scott Sellars and Alan Thompson both worked tirelessly and creatively while Per Frandsen tidied up diligently in front of the back four. The Bolton manager, Colin Todd, professed himself very happy with his team's performance, saying: "We worked hard in very hot conditions and I thought we deserved our win. The longer the game went on the more we gained in composure and we held our shape well. There is room for improvement but it was pleasing to restrict them to very few chances."

By contrast, Southampton's manager, Dave Jones, had a fraught first afternoon in the Premiership. "We were doing OK," he said, "until a stupid mistake at the back." He was also concerned at the ease with which Blake latched on to long balls and exploited Southampton's leaden-footed defence. "The long ball through the middle killed us," he commented. "And it shouldn't happen at this level - it shouldn't happen at any level."

But Blake and John McGinlay, who scored 52 goals between them last season, look to have the pace and experience to trouble better defences than Southampton's. Blake would have had a hat-trick but for the commitment of Saints' goalkeeper, Paul Jones, who came with his manager from Stockport County.

Dave Jones' demeanour may be brightened by the return from injury of Claus Lundekvam, Alan Neilson and Matt Le Tissier, effectively the spine of his team. He should also be heartened by the form of 19-year-old Andy Williams, a, former Welsh Under-18 international. The left winger gave Bolton's Neil Cox an uncomfortable time and repeatedly got to the byline. Had his final ball been better, Southampton might have escaped with something from this match.

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