Bolton, securely ensconced in the top half of the Premiership all season, suddenly have problems - and Mike Riley is only one of them. The Wanderers have had a complex about the Yorkshire referee since he sent off two of their players in quick-time against Leicester four years ago. So when he sent off Hidetoshi Nakata and booked four other Wanderers on Saturday, it was bound to stir some unpleasant memories.
Big Sam and Little Sam - Allardyce and his assistant Lee - came out after the game armed with an impressive wad of statistics. Riley had sent off five Bolton players in seven matches, four of them in the first half. Blackburn had committed more fouls on the day, but had got away with two bookings. And yet one thing that no one bothered to deny was that, by current standards, Nakata deserved to go for his two clumsy challenges. The strong impression was that Bolton would have been happier if Robbie Savage had gone as well, but their efforts to draw a reaction from him were largely unsuccessful.
With four players on African Nations Cup duty, the premature departure of another experienced midfielder was badly-timed. To play for an hour against a side in Blackburn's run of robust good form looked a tall order, but it brought the best out of Bolton.
A game which had been shapeless for its first half hour developed a compelling story-line as a siege, with Tal Ben Haim and Bruno N'Gotty marshalling a doughty defensive effort.
Rovers made enough chances to have won it, and they thought they had done so when Brett Emerton's header came back off the underside of the bar and then Paul Dickov missed from close range. After that, their Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester United seemed to catch up with them. "Maybe our midweek exertions meant that, towards the end of the game, we started to get a bit tired," said their manager, Mark Hughes.
Bolton could have won it on the breakaway, but Ricardo Vaz Te fell over as he tried to take the ball around Brad Friedel. Allardyce still had one card up his sleeve. In recent weeks, he has become fond of the sentimental substitution, giving his Youth team goalkeeper a late run at Watford in the FA Cup and, this weekend, giving Matt Jansen the chance to say his goodbyes to Ewood Park.
Jansen was brought on with 12 minutes to play, the day after being released by Blackburn. He got the warmest of receptions from fans who, as he said, have supported him through thick and thin. "The supporters have been brilliant with me all along and they were brilliant with me again today," he said. Whether they would have been quite welcoming if he had scored a late goal for Bolton is another matter, but, in the end, the visitors were well satisfied with a hard-won point.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Gray; Emerton (Kuqi, 64), Reid, Savage, Pedersen; Bentley, Dickov (Bellamy, 71). Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Khizanishvili, Tugay.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Gardner; Nolan, Nakata, Fadiga (Jansen, 78), Giannakopoulos (Vaz Te, 62); Borgetti (Campo, 36), Davies. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Hunt.
Referee: M Riley (West Yorks).
Booked: Blackburn Reid, Bentley. Bolton Nakata, Fadiga, O'Brien, N'Gotty, Jaaskelainen.
Sent off: Nakata (Bolton).
Man of the match: N'Gotty.
Attendance: 18,180.Reuse content