Football: Bolton cornered by Telfer at `White Elephant Park'

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The Independent Online
Bolton Wanderers 1

Coventry City 5

There was a lively local debate over what Bolton Wanderers should call their exemplary new ground.

Lofthouse Stadium was the traditional and sentimental favourite; Reebok the sound commercial option. But, if Bolton continue to defend like this, they can start painting new signs now for White Elephant Park.

Although filled to its 25,000 capacity at the start, the Reebok was less than half-full by the end. Even allowing for the notorious difficulty of getting off the stadium's car parks, it was a visible display of disillusionment with the Wanderers' increasingly empty aspirations to survive in the Premiership.

You could see their point. It is doubly galling to lose 5-1 after appearing well capable of winning the match, purely through an inability to perform simple defensive tasks.

Of those goals, three came from corners delivered with precision by Paul Telfer and the other two from outrageous blunders. The Bolton manager, Colin Todd, when he finally appeared, almost 90 minutes after the match, defended his decision to leave Mark Fish, currently between engagements with South Africa, on the bench.

Fish could hardly have done worse. He could have been in Johannesburg and been more of an impediment to a Coventry side which, as Gordon Strachan admitted, did not play remotely as well as against Liverpool and Arsenal of late, than some of his colleagues.

Telfer takes corners from both left and right for Coventry and perhaps only Sheffield Wednesday's new signing, Andy Hinchcliffe, matches him for the quality of his delivery.

More than that, Telfer provided an abrasive and aggressive presence on the right of midfield that raised the question of whether he might yet be a useful addition to Scotland's squad for the World Cup.

"It's his heart that makes him a top-class footballer," said Strachan. "With some it's ability; with him it's all heart."

For Bolton, even their firmest fans believe, one-way tickets are already reserved to take them back to the Nationwide League.

Their next five matches include meetings with Arsenal, Liverpool and, first of all, a Manchester United side still stinging from an unaccustomed home defeat. It's as hard to detect an escape route from that lot as it is to get off the car parks, although on Saturday's showing the supporters are likely to be departing earlier and earlier.

Goals: Sellars (21) 1-0; Whelan (26) 1-1; Huckerby (58) 1-2; Huckerby (65) 1-3; Dublin (73) 1-4; Dublin (79) 1-5.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Branagan; Cox, Fairclough, Todd, Phillips; Pollock (Beardsley 68), Sheridan, Frandsen, Sellars; Blake, Taylor (Holdsworth 68). Substitutes not used: Johansen, Fish, Ward (gk).

Coventry City: (4-4-2): Hedman; Nilsson, Shaw (Hall, 79), Breen, Burrows; Telfer, Boateng (Gavin Strachan, 83), Soltvedt, Whelan; Dublin, Huckerby (Moldovan, 77). Substitutes not used: Howey, Boland.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxford).

Bookings: Bolton: Blake, Phillips. Coventry: Telfer.

Man of the match: Telfer.

Attendance: 25,000.