Football: Kennedy escapes the stranglehold of Bolton

Bolton Wanderers 0 Manchester City 1 Kennedy 32 Half-time: 0- 1 Attendance: 21,671
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The Independent Online
BOLTON WASTED enough chances to secure half a dozen victories in a game they contrived to lose despite dominating throughout - a point not lost on the Manchester City manager, Joe Royle. While savouring victory, Royle accepted that his team's display, particularly in a sterile first half, was at best lacklustre against a bright, lively Bolton. "We were lucky to be ahead," he said, "but we had the better chances after the break.

"It was our least effective performance of the season and Bolton were the best side we've faced, and I now don't believe there's anything for us to fear in this division."

Royle's latter assessment seems premature. Though they have secured five clean sheets and conceded just one goal in their six League and cup matches, City's only sustained pressure was applied as Bolton scurried to salvage a result in the dying minutes - the win more a result of the profligacy in sight of goal of Bolton, and of Eidur Gudjohnsen in particular.

Back-to-back League defeats for the home side - last week against Ipswich - suggest that if they do not find their form in the strike zone, it could be a season of considerable underachievement for Colin Todd's charges.

"We played well, looked solid and created plenty of chances, but could not convert them," the Bolton manager said. "It's not a good sign that we are losing games we should be getting at least something out of."

Bolton settled the quicker, only a fine Nick Weaver parry preventing Gudjohnsen from opening the scoring in the third minute. Moments later Per Frandsen came close, his free-kick driven from the edge of the box just crept over the bar.

The Bolton duo of Claus Jensen and Frandsen dominated the midfield battleground and their dogged pressing created the space which Ricardo Gardner, in particular, exploited to good effect on the left.

It was the speed of Bolton's play, though, which most troubled the visitors - the passing was crisp, the running off the ball lively and purposeful, the attacking play measured and incisive.

For all their dominance, it was Manchester City who took the lead and, ultimately, the spoils with Mark Kennedy's edge-of-the-box strike evading the grasp of Keith Branagan.

An injury to the influential Jensen at the start of the second half forced Todd to reshuffle his midfield, and without his strength and application, Bolton's stranglehold loosened but was still intact. The frustration of fruitless domination, however, started to show and speedy interchanges began to give way to more desperate and less considered surges.