Allardyce's hope for England undermined by dull derby

Bolton Wanderers 0 Blackburn Rovers 0
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The Independent Football

This was a game bereft of any attacking ambition by two teams playing with lone strikers and it firmly established this fixture as the Premiership's least glamorous derby.

Bolton's chaotic defence was matched by a lack of invention by Blackburn, who have now gone three games without a goal and looked like a team afraid of scoring.

Allardyce did not convincingly dismiss a journalist's one-word summary of the game: "To say we didn't get going is an understatement," he mused. "It was a scrappy game and we were incredibly average. Everybody else is playing 4-5-1 so its getting more difficult to break teams down. Before, we could out-fox sides, but Blackburn were strong defensively and made life difficult for us."

The first-half booing from Bolton fans would have let a blind man know that Robbie Savage was a central figure. Savage represents the kind of cynical footballer that Mark Hughes does not want Blackburn Rovers to be known for, but he protected his back four impressively from a Bolton midfield that looked more dangerous than their local rivals.

"Sometimes you take what you can out of the game," said Hughes after the game. "We missed Craig Bellamy today but overall we're a little bit disappointed not to have taken three points."

Bolton were no angels themselves and the team that has players from 18 different countries showed that they could get well into the ways of a rough and tumble Lancashire derby.

Stelios Giannakopoulos, who had a busy first half, scythed Savage to the ground and Ivan Campo was booked for body-checking Morten Gamst Pedersen.

The best chance of the half fell to the Spaniard Campo - Bolton's top scorer so far this season - but he blazed a header over the bar from a Diouf free-kick after 40 minutes.

Blackburn looked stronger after the break and just edged a second half that was as bereft of good football as the first, but without the simmering passion. The bright spot was the introduction of substitute David Bentley after 58 minutes.

The 21-year-old winger, on loan from Arsenal, sent in a couple of teasing crosses and went just over Jussi Jaaskelainen's bar with a cute chip.

For Bolton, the only bright spots during the second half were in the blue skies above the Reebok Stadium. Allardyce's team looked chaotic at the back and would have been punished by a more incisive team than Blackburn.

Tal Ben Haim almost gifted Steven Reid a winner with a sloppy back-pass and Jaaskelainen gave Lucas Neill a sight of an empty net when he unwisely committed to a scramble in the Bolton penalty area.

Bolton's best chance of the miserable half again fell to Campo who put a free header straight into the arms of Brad Friedel.

Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Campo, N'Gotty, Ben Haim, Pedersen; Nolan, Okocha (Hunt, 78), Speed; Diouf, Davies (Borghetti, 70), Stelios (Gardner 56). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Nakata.

Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Friedel; Neill, Nelsen, Matteo, Khizanishvilli; Emerton, Savage, Mokoena, Reid, Pedersen (Bentley, 58); Jansen (Kuqi, 58). Substitutes not used: Enckleman (gk), Dickov, Tugay.

Referee: G Poll (Herts).

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