Football: Wilcox glosses over a close call

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 3

Gallacher 4, Sutton 21, Wilcox 90

Bolton Wanderers 1

Frandsen 84

Attendance: 25,503

Blackburn survived a nailbiting finale to a game which had seemed wrapped up in the opening quarter. Disrupted by the early dismissal of Bolton's Alan Thompson for a horrible challenge on Jeff Kenna, Blackburn almost paid for lapsing into cruise control as their visitors stepped up a gear.

Though Jason Wilcox gave the scoreline respectability with the last kick of the game, Blackburn were inches away from squandering two points when Bolton striker Nathan Blake, with a clear run on goal, shot wide a few moments earlier. The home side had started in rampant mood and threatened to overwhelm a sloppy and complacent Bolton. And, while Roy Hodgson's side always dominated, a stream of wayward final balls and more committed defending prevented an extension of their 2-0 lead.

Thompson's sending off on 23 minutes served to spark Bolton into life. Angered by a previous decision, Thompson lunged at Kenna with sufficient malice to merit the red card. Blackburn's edge was almost immediately blunted while Bolton's own offensive threat was barely hampered by their handicap.

Bolton manager Colin Todd switched to a three-man midfield which cramped Blackburn's imaginative and slick approach play. The home side were forced to concentrate on the flanks, and although the chances continued to flow, Bolton managed to cling on.

After one Kevin Gallacher effort, a weak shot following fancy footwork on the edge of the area, Bolton broke with Blake holding off the defence until support arrived in the shape of Per Frandsen. A swift Blake turn and low cross found the Dane with enough time to take a controlling touch before sliding home under Tim Flowers.

Panic stations were manned for the final seven minutes, with Hodgson relieved to see justice prevail. "Our performance from the first minute was extremely good and the quality of our attacking play for long periods was excellent. A 2-2 scoreline would have been unjust," concluded the Blackburn manager.

His side started at a flying pace, Chris Sutton releasing Gallacher into the area for a fierce shot which forced a corner. Damien Duff's delivery cleared the Bolton defence at the front post and landed at the unmarked Gallacher's feet for a simple tap-in.

More woeful Bolton defending, Stuart Ripley leaving Mark Fish treading water in the penalty box, allowed the winger to pick out Sutton arriving at the far post for another untroubled conversion.

Todd was critical of his side's slack start. "We aren't a physical side. If we were, we would have defended better in the first 10 minutes. If we cannot apply ourselves better as a team we will never win games. But after the sending off we made it very difficult for Blackburn and those 10 players worked magnificently."