Football: Jones the saviour

Bolton 0 Southampton 0 Attendance: 23,333
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The Independent Online
DESPITE playing for much of the match against 10 men, Bolton could not find a way to spoil the in-form goalkeeper Paul Jones's afternoon as Southampton fought with grim determination for the point that keeps them ahead of their relegation rivals.

Jones, whose participation had been in doubt because of a groin injury, produced save after save to frustrate the home side, whose woeful scoring record at the Reebok Stadium has been a principal factor in their failure to shake off fears of an instant return to the Nationwide League.

Since the summer move to their splendid new stadium - officially opened yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott - Bolton have found the target just nine times in 11 home Premiership matches, three of which came in one game.

This time they found Jones in marvellous form. Even before the visitors lost their left-back Francis Benali after 33 minutes to a red card for taking a swipe at Jamie Pollock, he had kept out a header from Nathan Blake and two shots from Per Frandsen, and his performance thereafter earned high praise from the Saints manager, David Jones.

"We knew we were going to be under pressure but we defended brilliantly and when Bolton did get through, the goalkeeper did the rest," Jones said.

Still without their record buy Dean Holdsworth, Bolton made their share of misses, for which the on-loan Bob Taylor was guilty on two counts, but on another afternoon would have expected some return. However, Jones was equal to almost every task demanded of him, saving his most important stops for Bolton's last desperate assault during which he turned a header by Andy Todd and a long-range drive by Neil Cox over the bar.

When he was beaten, he had luck on his side, first when Taylor missed arguably the best opening of all after just 23 seconds and again when, in a rare mistake, he dropped a cross at Taylor's feet just before half- time. The 30-year-old forward ought to have marked his debut with a goal but his stabbed shot spun off Jones's leg and hit the woodwork. Later, the full-back Jason Dodd came to Jones's rescue by heading another Todd effort off the line.