Bolton 1, Rabotnicki Kometal 0 (Bolton win 2-1 on agg): Anelka magic conjures a respite from League gloom

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The Independent Football

An instant payoff from their illustrious second-half substitute Nicolas Anelka eased Bolton into the group stages of the Uefa Cup on what was otherwise a frustrating night at the Reebok stadium.

A largely second-string Wanderers side struggled to break down Macedonian opposition that might politely be described as uncompromising, until the introduction of Anelka worked the oracle and lifted some of the gloom that comes with being next to bottom in the Premiership.

No sooner had Bolton's leading scorer come on to the field than another of the bigger guns brought on for the second half, Stelios Giannakopoulos, picked him out beyond the far post with an early cross. Anelka's header loped over Tome Pacovski, the goalkeeper brought in after his predecessors' error denied the Macedonians a win in the first leg, and into the far side of the net for his sixth goal of the season.

The sense of relief around the Reebok was palpable, although it would have been quickly deflated if either of two Rabotnicki's substitutes, Ivan Pejcic or Krste Velkovski, had done better with clear chances to take the game into extra time.

For the beleaguered Bolton manager, Sammy Lee, this was, however, a night to celebrate a run of five games without defeat in all competitions. It is not exactly a record that screams out for a sacking when you put it like that.

"I was very, very pleased with the application. People ask me whether this was a distraction and I always said that it wasn't," said Lee.

"That's five undefeated and everybody connected with the club should take some confidence from that."

With one eye on the visit of Chelsea on Sunday, Lee had made seven changes from the line-up that started in the draw at Derby last weekend, but he had correctly calculated that he had the required firepower in reserve on the bench, particularly in the person of Anelka. "Everybody knows the quality of him, but they all played their part tonight," Lee said.

No less than five Rabotnicki players were booked, usually for fouling men when they threatened to beat them for pace on the outside. That gave Danny Guthrie, a poor man's David Beckham, with his dead-ball technique, plenty of opportunities to fire balls into the box, without one ever getting the touch it required.