Allardyce's formula falls flat

Bolton Wanderers 0 - Manchester City 1

What a bonus it was for a Manchester City side that could so easily slide towards the relegation zone that they should go to a ground at which everyone still says it is so difficult to play, produce so little and still get away with a win.

What a bonus it was for a Manchester City side that could so easily slide towards the relegation zone that they should go to a ground at which everyone still says it is so difficult to play, produce so little and still get away with a win.

Mind you, when Kevin Keegan and other admirers of Bolton's early-season form talk about "Fortress Reebok", they are sounding increasingly out of date. The Wanderers have lost their last three there - four in a row in all - and seem to have forgotten how to win. A style of play which brought them a place in the Premiership's top four, if not the approval of all its managers, is, for the moment, not working.

"Not only was this a poor result, it was also an edgy and nervous performance," the Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, said. "I feel bitterly disappointed. We are not getting the rub of the green at the moment and we are falling into a depressing run." He hinted at change for the Boxing Day visit to Old Trafford, saying that he would be starting "to pick a side for each game, a system we think can get a result".

That could be bad news in the short term for Bolton's most charismatic player, Jay-Jay Okocha, who was hauled off after little more than an hour with no pretence of injury. "I didn't think Jay-Jay was contributing enough today," his manager said afterwards. "His passing is the main part of his game and he didn't do that today."

Allardyce had already shown a willingness to omit popular favourites by leaving Ivan Campo on the bench for 90 minutes, despite being forced by injury and suspension to revamp his defence.

Not everything he tried fell flat. Gary Speed was admirable in the Campo role in front of the back four and Okocha's replacement, Ricardo Vaz Te, showed glimpses of eye-catching pace and enterprise. Allardyce could well be encouraged to experiment further.

With only 20 fit players, Keegan's room for manoeuvre is limited, but he got lucky on Saturday. Nicolas Anelka had that faraway look - as in looking as though he wished he was far away - and did little to justify his recall, but he was there in the 52nd minute to connect with Robbie Fowler's deft through-ball. Jussi Jaaskelainen's dive at his feet would probably have been enough to give him a penalty, but Joey Barton's follow-up removed all doubt.

City's success was also built on the way that Sylvain Distin and Richard Dunne kept Kevin Davies out of the game. Davies has been a key man for Bolton all season and a real nuisance to opposition defences with his combative skills in the air, but in this match he hardly won a ball.

When that happens, the Wanderers have no spearhead, although Keegan remains convinced that their approach will soon start to pay off again. "It's going to get them a lot of points. On another day, a team might not be able to stand up to it the way we did," he said, but, like a grateful guest, he was being polite.

Goal: Barton (52) 0-1.

Bolton Wanderers (4-1-3-2): Jaaskelainen; Cesar, Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Barness; Speed; Nolan, Okocha (Vaz Te, 64), Stelios; Davies, Pedersen (Ferdinand, 75). Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Campo, Hierro.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Dunne, Distin, Jordan; S Wright-Phillips, Barton, Bosvelt, Sibierski; Fowler, Anelka. Substitutes not used: Waterreus (gk), Onuoha, Macken, B Wright-Phillips, Flood.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).

Man of the match: Distin.

Attendance: 27,274.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick