Football: Taylor reveals Bolton's reserves of grit and determination

Bolton Wanderers 2 Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Online
ANY battle against the inevitable, if it is to be successful, needs to throw up some unlikely champions. Bolton had any number of contenders as they gritted their teeth and rode their luck for this crucial win.

Take Dean Holdsworth. That's what Bolton's fans have been begging anyone who would listen since his last - and only - goal in October.

But the much-maligned Holdsworth was there to follow up Alan Thompson's piledriver and nod the Wanderers into the lead. He them had the good grace to limp off with a hamstring injury while he was still, for once, in credit with his detractors, thus clearing the way for a match-winning cameo from Bob Taylor.

Strikers on loan from West Brom reserves are not usually expected to work the oracle for struggling Premiership sides, but Taylor gave Bolton a vital lift as soon as he came on to the field.

"A lot of people would have thought bringing him here was a backward step," said Nathan Blake, captaining the Wanderers for the first time, of his sometime partner's humble origins. "But I knew why the Gaffer signed him. He's a good striker to play alongside."

It was Blake who had Bolton's only other real chance of a match dominated in midfield by Blackburn, one which he chipped high over the bar.

Apart from that, it was a matter of battling for a desperately needed result, a cause in which the central defenders, Andy Todd and Mark Fish, grew in stature as the afternoon went on.

Another bonus was the performance of the 19-year-old England Youth international, Hasney Aljofree, making his debut at left wing-back. He made a thoroughly composed first appearance, although it was a mystery why Blackburn waited until 15 minutes from time before unleashing a specialist winger at him.

By the time Stuart Ripley came on, Aljofree had built up his confidence to such an extent that he was winning tackles with total assurance and spraying 50-yard passes. But Rovers' reluctance to test him earlier was symptomatic of their current inability to kill off the opposition.

As so often of late, they looked in a position to take control - especially via the work of Billy McKinlay - but they missed their chances and lost the initiative.

"It's a very bad blow for us," their manager, Roy Hodgson, admitted. "Our Uefa Cup hopes are getting dashed with every defeat."

For Bolton, hope is rekindled. They are still in deep trouble, but the evidence of this display was that, if they do go down, they will go down fighting. And, if they continue to get a modicum of luck to go with their lifted spirits, they may not be going anywhere.

Goals: Holdsworth (20) 1-0; Duff (51) 1-1; Taylor (67) 2-1.

Bolton Wanderers (3-5-2): Branagan; Todd, Fish, Fairclough; Cox, Frandsen, Sheridan, Thompson, Aljofree; Holdsworth (Taylor, 59), Blake. Substitutes not used: Strong, Salako, Giallanza, Ward (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Fettis; Kenna, Henchoz, Hendry, Wilcox; Flitcroft, Sherwood (Ripley, 75), McKinlay, Duff; Gallacher (Dahlin, 75), Sutton. Substitutes not used: Broomes, Davidson, Williams (gk).

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

Booked: Wilcox, Hendry, Todd. Sent off: Wilcox.

Man of the Match: Fish.

Attendance: 25,000.