Allardyce shows touch of alchemist in increasing influence of Nakata

Charlton Athletic 0 Bolton Wanderers 1
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The Independent Football

"He got slated in newspapers last week because he was struggling," his captain, Kevin Nolan, said. "But I think he proved a few people wrong. It can't have been easy for him coming into the English game, because he's had to adjust, but he has adjusted exceptionally well."

Nakata even appeared to adjust mid-game, having far more of an impact after the break. "I was pleased with him in the second half," said Allardyce. "He was slightly outplayed in the first half and found it difficult to get space, but in the second he started playing quality balls that probed at their defence."

That probing rarely threatened to unlock Charlton, but it did at least shift the game into the home side's half, and when an opening presented itself - slightly fortuitously - Nakata ensured it was taken. Stephan Andersen had reacted brilliantly to turn away Abdoulaye Faye's deflected 72nd-minute drive, but the Japanese midfielder collected the loose ball and crossed for Nolan to touch in from close range.

The Bolton manager had the decency to accept that the increased space in the second half was probably the result of Charlton's exertions in overcoming Chelsea in the Carling Cup last Wednesday, but it was only in the final 20 minutes that the game came alive, Jussi Jaaskelainen parrying from Jonatan Johansson just before the goal, and then effecting a superb tip-over to keep out a Bryan Hughes header with three minutes left.

Alan Curbishley was in generally philosophical mood, not only refusing to use a hangover from Wednesday as an excuse for his team's performance, but also insisting that the presence of Prince William at training on Friday had not been a distraction. Others who remember the second-in-line's baleful influence on the Lions tour to New Zealand may not absolve him of blame, though, and, given he will become president of the Football Association in May, England fans should perhaps not expect too much from the World Cup.

For Bolton, though, the future looks bright, even if Allardyce gloomily listed all the fixtures his side has to play because of their annoying habit of not getting knocked out of competitions. "The ultimate brick wall may be around the corner," he said. Well, yes, it might, but so might silverware, and at the moment, Bolton are in a Champions' League spot.

Goals: Nolan (72) 0-1.

Charlton (4-5-1): Andersen; Young, Perry, Hreidarsson, Spector; Rommedahl, Kishishev (Holland, 77), Smertin (Hughes, 61), Murphy, Ambrose (Johansson, 63); Bothroyd. Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), El Karkouri.

Bolton (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Jaidi, N'Gotty, Gardner; Nolan (Okocha, 84), Nakata (Ben Haim, 87), Faye, Speed, Diouf; Davies (Borgetti 69). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Djetou.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).

Booked: Charlton: Murphy.

Man of the match: Nakata.

Attendance: 26,175.

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