Bimingham City 1 Bolton Wanderers 0: Lee rejects talk of 'crisis' as Bolton slump deepens

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The Independent Online

A warning to football followers. As with investments, your team's form can go up and down. After losing five of their opening six Premier League games, Bolton's stock is plummeting – and their beleaguered new manager, Sammy Lee, is already sounding like the chief executive of a stricken building society.

"We're in a difficult position, but I wouldn't like to use the words survival or crisis," he said in the wake of a defeat from which he felt unable to draw even the small change of encouragement. "We didn't perform, and we didn't compete," added the man who is struggling to fill the shoes of his predecessor, Sam Allardyce. "The lads are bitterly disappointed."

What, you wondered, were the lads doing being disappointed? Wasn't it their job to perform so their supporters would not be disappointed?

Although the sides were ultimately separated by just one goal – a 37th minute effort which Birmingham's new signing Olivier Kapo guided home from a cunningly flighted cross by man-of-the-match Sebastian Larsson – the away side were a sad spectre of what they used to be. In the course of the afternoon, the frustration the visitors were experiencing became evident in the way even the experienced midfielder Gary Speed began to lose his rag over small matters.

Only El Hadji Diouf showed any sign of consistent enterprise, and his perfectly executed one-two with the Norwegian striker Daniel Braaten would have created an equaliser but for the intervention of Birmingham's right-back Stephen Kelly.

Bolton continue to be less than the sum of their parts, and the manager's crestfallen appearance afterwards was a less than encouraging spectacle for those who hope they will recapture their effectiveness. As Lee pointed out himself, Bolton garnered 69 per cent of last season's Premier League points total before Christmas. "The table is always relevant, and we know the position we are in," he said.

And Lee's counterpart on Saturday, Steve Bruce, well knows the position the Bolton manager is in. Less than a year ago Bruce stood in the same homely press room at St Andrew's and admitted that he did not know if he would be keeping his job after a home defeat to Norwich had provoked protests from the home fans.

So it was little wonder that he offered a sympathetic appraisal of Lee's position. "Let me tell you," he said, "it would be difficult for any manager to replace Arsène Wenger or Alex Ferguson. Now the same is going to be true of Little Sammy to replace Big Sam at Bolton. And the one thing he's got to have now is time."

Goal: Kapo (37) 1-0.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Taylor; Kelly, Djorou, Ridgewell, Queudrue; Larsson, Nafti, Muamba (Oubina, 86min), McSheffrey (Schmitz, 90); Jerome (O'Connor, 90), Kapo. Substitutes not used: Kingson, Forssell.

Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskaleinen; Hunt, Meite, O'Brien (Cid, 76), Samuel (Gardner, 73); Alonso (Braaten, 54), Nolan, McCann, Speed, Diouf; Anelka. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Davies.

Referee: P Dowd

Booked: Birmingham Ridgewell, Kelly. Bolton Speed, Nolan.

Man of the match: Larsson

Attendance: 28,124

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