COLIN TODD has once again built a Bolton team that looks capable of winning promotion to the Premiership. Whether they would be able to stay there for longer than one season is another matter.
These two clubs came down together from the top flight last season, but they now seem to be a long way apart in terms of both ability and attitude. This was an easy victory for the home side yesterday over a distinctly lacklustre Crystal Palace team who did not give Bolton any sort of meaningful test.
All the goals came in the first half, and although the Londoners regained some self-respect in the second period they never looked like making a serious impact on the game.
"It was an excellent performance," Todd, Bolton's manager, said. His Palace counterpart, Terry Venables, admitted his team "made some schoolboy errors". He added: "It was a shocking first-half, and it could have been a lot worse."
Palace were not helped by the absence of their coveted striker, Matt Jansen. Venables explained that the player had asked to be excluded, having been unsettled by recent transfer speculation. "That disappoints me, but that's life," the former England manager said.
It took Bolton just two minutes to open the scoring with a goal which highlighted the frailty of Palace's central defence. The marauding Mark Fish was pushed over by Hayden Mullins almost on the byline just outside the penalty area. Scott Sellars floated in the free-kick with his left foot and Bob Taylor, left unmarked by Sagi Burton, headed in with ease.
Todd's squad now contains three Danish, one Finnish and no fewer than five Icelandic players. All three Danes were on display yesterday, and Messrs Frandsen, Jensen and Johansen gave the home team a firm grip on midfield.
Arnar Gunnlaugsson, the powerful Icelandic striker, started the move which brought the second goal in the 24th minute. He ran at the defence and slipped the ball wide to Michael Johansen, who cut in from the right, beat Jason Crowe and hammered his shot low across goal and in at the far post.
Palace fell further behind after 33 minutes. Their offside trap was found wanting as Per Frandsen's pass put Claus Jensen in the clear, and he raced forward to round Kevin Miller and find the net with arrogant ease.
Before half-time Burton was lucky not to concede a penalty, after tangling with the tricky Gunnlaugsson.
The visitors switched to a 3-5-2 formation after the interval, with Fan Zhiyi joining the overworked David Tuttle and Burton in central defence, but by then the damage had been done.
As Bolton relaxed, Palace began to enjoy more possession. Their captain, the Australian international Craig Foster, started winning some midfield contests and his close-range shot after 53 minutes brought the first save of the game from Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Bolton's Finnish goalkeeper pulled off another smart save from a Simon Rodger shot after 58 minutes, but that was the last goal threat from Palace. The home side were never in any danger of surrendering the three points which took them to fifth place in the First Division.
Goals: Taylor (2) 1-0; Johansen (24) 2-0; Jensen (33) 3-0.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Cox, Warhurst, Fish, Whitlow (Elliott, 80); Johansen, Jensen, Frandsen, Sellars (Gardner, 76); Gunnlaugsson, Taylor (Holdsworth, 76).
Crystal Palace (4-1-3-2): Miller; Sun Jihai, Burton, Tuttle, Crowe (Amsalem, 68); Mullins; Foster, Fan Zhiyi, Rodger (Rizzo, 74); Morrison (Bent, 56), Bradbury.
Referee: R Pearson (Peterlee).
Booking: Crystal Palace Bradbury.
Man of the match: Gunnlaugsson.
Attendance: 15,410.Reuse content