Football: Bolton battle to steal the points

Grimsby Town 0 Bolton Wanderers 1
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The Independent Online
THE REHABILITATION of Dean Holdsworth goes on. Bolton's record signing, reviled by the club's supporters as overpaid, overrated and over the hill, was again their match-winner at Blundell Park on Saturday.

Bolton have sold last season's leading scorer, Nathan Blake, and now this season's, Arnar Gunnlaugsson, but Holdsworth has conveniently rediscovered the knack of trundling them in.

The former Wimbledon striker is not scoring memorable goals; the one he scored at the seaside was as crabby as anything you could find on the foreshore. But it took his tally for the season to nine, of which four have been scored in the last three games, all of them won to keep Bolton in touch with the automatic promotion places.

"Apart from his goal-scoring, he is beginning to lead the line very well," said his manager, Colin Todd, who nevertheless intends to complete the signing of the Danish striker, Bo Hansen, today. As for Gunnlaugsson, such a crucial player early in the season, Todd was dismissive. "He wasn't in the side and we've been winning," he said. "Players come and players go."

Perhaps an even bigger factor in Bolton's current run is their ability to keep clean sheets. That was placed under closer scrutiny than usual on Saturday when Paul Warhurst, who has made such a difference to their defence since his transfer from Crystal Palace, went off with a hamstring injury after only 15 minutes. In his absence, Mark Fish produced what Todd described as a "tremendous" performance, sacrificing his normal adventurous instincts in favour of a highly effective, no-frills role at the heart of a well-organised back four.

Not that Grimsby presented the threat that their recent form suggested they might. Their manager, Alan Buckley, had a fair point when he said that they had played the better football, but the end product was sadly lacking. Their problem was that all their best work was done down the flanks but there was little in the way of firepower through the middle.

With Bolton's own central midfield lacking its usual fluency, that left a strange vacuum at the core of what should have been a full-blooded promotion battle. There was hardly a clear-cut chance at either end and it was fitting that a match which could have a considerable bearing on the promotion positions should be decided by Aidan Davison's botched punch that presented Holdsworth with his unmissable opportunity.

Goal: Holdsworth (54) 0-1.

Grimsby (4-4-2): Davison; McDermott, R Smith, Handyside, Gallimore (Clare 61); Donovan (Lever 82), Coldicott, Groves, D Smith (Widdrington 87); Nogan, Black.

Bolton (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Cox, Fish, Warhurst (Elliott 15), Whitlow; Johansen, Jensen (Gardener 70), Frandsen, Sellars; Holdsworth, Taylor. Substitutes not used: Gudjohnsen.

Referee: W Burns (Scarborough)

Bookings: Grimsby: R Smith. Bolton: Fish.

Man of the match: Fish.

Attendance: 8,674.