Football: Gudjohnsen's boost for Bolton ambitions

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The Independent Online
Bolton Wanderers 2

Taylor 37 Gudjohnsen 69

Ipswich Town 0

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 19,894

GIVEN THE gravity of the fixture, with two teams desperate for points to realise their ambitions, an edgy encounter might have been predicted. However, with both sides intent on playing, rather than barging their way into the Premiership, quality, despite the odds, shone throughout - though that is not to say the nerves were not jangling for periods.

Indeed, a sense of urgency pervaded the early forays, with the contenders taking time to settle and find meaningful passes in a congested midfield. Too often the final ball lacked the required precision and thanks to well- organised defences - the new coach Derek Fazackerley's influence on the Bolton back-line already in evidence - the strikers rarely found the space to display their art and shots were of the speculative variety.

The home team, though, did get an early break, but Bob Taylor's free header was thwarted by Mark Venus's lunging defensive block. Ipswich have built their season on such moments, their goals-conceded column the best in the First Division before yesterday. Bolton, meanwhile, have lost their way in recent weeks, their defensive frailties too often exposed. But while there were some jitters, there is a sense at the Reebok Stadium that the corner has been turned.

Colin Todd, the Bolton manager, acknowledged the point. "We hit a brick wall," he said, "But we continued to play with the same principles and today we gave a very professional performance based on them.

"We have some very fine players and they don't become bad overnight. I'm confident we can achieve what we are aiming to, but there's still a lot to do."

That said, David Johnson was unlucky not to score for the visitors, hitting the woodwork with headers in each half, and his manager, George Burley, was keen to point out that his team had played its part in this, at times, frenetic meeting. "We played well, though some of our passing went astray, and both Bolton goals - good as they were - came on the break," he said. "We still believe we can get second position as we've been very consistent this season - this was only our fifth away defeat."

Had the Bolton goalkeeper, Steve Banks, not touched Jim Magilton's fine free-kick over when the scores were level, it may have been a different story. But with the first half in its twilight, a breathtaking run by the man of the match, Eidur Gudjohnsen, saw the deadlock broken. Fed by Ricardo Gardner on the halfway line, he evaded would-be tacklers, and mazed his way into the Ipswich penalty box. His accurate, low strike was pushed wide by Richard Wright to the on-rushing Taylor whose narrow, angled shot ricocheted in off Wright's legs.

Despite a brief Ipswich resurgence after the break, due largely to the introduction of the lively Kieron Dyer, back after a seven-week absence with a broken leg, the home team took a stranglehold on the game. Displaying a resilience so lacking recently, the strikers best exemplified the keenness to retain the slender advantage, relentlessly harrying the Ipswich defence. Their efforts were rewarded when, as the Ipswich midfield pressed forward, Gardner found the space and time to feed Gudjohnsen on the right and he drilled his shot into the net from 10 yards.

Ipswich, to their credit, continued to seek some consolation, which made for a thrilling finale with Matthew Holland and Johnson going close for the visitors, while Taylor, with time on his side, dallied and failed to convert.

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