Allardyce counts on European run

Bolton Wanderers 0 Middlesbrough 0
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The Independent Football

Sam Allardyce, the Bolton Wanderers manager, is a man who likes statistics. He is taking particular pleasure from the numbers behind a nine-match sequence dating back to Boxing Day that began with an unremarkable home draw against West Bromwich Albion.

Sam Allardyce, the Bolton Wanderers manager, is a man who likes statistics. He is taking particular pleasure from the numbers behind a nine-match sequence dating back to Boxing Day that began with an unremarkable home draw against West Bromwich Albion.

Since then his team have won seven times and drawn once, a run that has taken them to the fifth round of the FA Cup - they entertain Fulham at the Reebok on Saturday - and the brink of the top six in the Premiership. The poor form of November and December is behind them and now Allardyce is looking to the future.

As far as he is concerned that means qualifying for Europe, a feat Middlesbrough denied them last year by winning the Carling Cup final. Allardyce freely admits he is envious of his friend, Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager, whose side play AK Graz on Thursday.

"We've been in the Premiership for four years now," he said, "so we're ready for European football. If we do nick a place it will be the first time in the club's history. Apart from winning a cup competition like the FA Cup, about the only way we can move forward is by getting into Europe."

Allardyce has assembled a talented multinational squad. Yet almost without exception he has dealt in free transfers. Now he wants money to spend. "You have to invest to move forward," he said. "The chairman will have to put his hands in his pockets. He'll have to show the ambition needed."

A little more ambition from Bolton would have been welcome on Saturday. Despite Boro being without several first team players Bolton only sporadically troubled their makeshift five-man defence.

On the face of it, this result was an extension of Bolton's impressive unbeaten sequence. But the most significant statistic was one they missed out on - the opportunity of setting a club record of six successive League wins and with it leapfrogging Boro into the top six.

Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Barness, Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Gardner; Campo (Vaz Te, 81); Nolan, Speed, Okocha, Stelios (Diouf, 53); Davies. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Hierro, Candela.

Middlesbrough (5-3-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue, Reiziger; Morrison, Doriva, Downing; Hasselbaink, Job (Nemeth, 67). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), McMahon, Bates, Graham.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Middlesbrough Morrison.

Man of the match: Campo.

Attendance: 24,322.

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