Aston Villa set their sights on their first away win of the season and found their route wide open.
Wide is the apposite word, because it was on the flanks that they destroyed a Bolton side that hit rock-bottom in the Premier League and might find it hard to rise from there.
The damage was done by the odd couple of Charles N'Zogbia and Marc Albrighton. N'Zogbia was reinstated with surprising haste after being left out last week for missing a treatment session.
That dropping, plus a pep talk from Alex McLeish on the theme of it not being "the good things of life, the cars and houses" that matter, seemed to have done the trick.
"It's about being a top player and we're looking for him to be a great Aston Villa player," his manager said.
The former Wigan Athletic winger was not great at the Reebok, but he was more than good enough to give a desperately poor Bolton plenty of problems. If anything, he was upstaged on the day by the man on the other flank. Albrighton has had to bide his time to get a chance to impress, but he was thrown in at the deep end against Manchester United last week.
"The kid gave us a wholehearted performance and there were signs in the game today that he is getting his mojo back," McLeish said.
Albrighton was a continual nuisance on the right and also scored a vital first goal. A second from Stiliyan Petrov six minutes later, however, ensured that they were on their way to a win on their travels for the first time.
Owen Coyle challenged his Wanderers to show more passion in the second half, but only to a very small extent did he get what he was calling for. Ivan Klasnic's scrambled goal gave them the illusion of being in with a chance. The supporters are restless, though, and some of Coyle's selections are starting to mystify them.His midfield on Saturday was woefully short of grit and was overrun. With teams around them picking up points, the situation is becoming critical.
Scorers: Bolton Klasnic 55. Aston Villa Albrighton 33, Petrov 39.
Substitutes: Bolton Kakuta 6 (Tuncay, 71), Ngog (Klasnic, 79). Aston Villa Heskey (Bent, 81).
Booked: Bolton M Davies.
Aston Villa Agbonlahor, Albrighton.
Man of the match Albrighton. Match rating 6/10.
Possession: Bolton 44% Aston Villa 56%.
Attempts on target: Bolton 13 Aston Villa 11.
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).
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