Bolton 2 Fulham 1: Nolan strikes to stake claim for national service

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The Independent Football

The 23-year-old has again been overlooked by the Swede for Wednesday's friendly against Uruguay at Anfield and seems unlikely to make the final cut for this summer's World Cup finals in Germany.

But he continues to prove invaluable to Bolton and after hitting his 10th goal of the season the clamour for Nolan's future inclusion will only increase.

Nolan's superb 68th-minute winner came after Fulham striker Heidar Helguson opened the scoring before netting with a calamitous own goal on the stroke of half-time.

The victory was the perfect way for Bolton to bounce back from their UEFA Cup exit at the hands of Marseille and keeps alive their hopes of another European campaign next term.

Sam Allardyce shrugged off the effects of a chest infection to take his place on the sidelines but he watched Bolton make an inauspicious start as Fulham began brightly.

Iceland striker Helguson arrived at the far post to connect sweetly with Tomasz Radzinski's deep lofted ball but could only crash a left-foot shot against the bar.

Fulham's bold attacking formation - with Helguson and Brian McBride ably supported by wide-men Luis Boa Morte and Radzinski - posed a serious threat to Bolton on the counter-attack.

Wanderers' most threatening moments came from set-pieces and Nolan was a whisker away from diverting Stelios Giannakopoulos' teasing low free-kick past Tony Warner at his near post.

However, Fulham's vibrant approach was rewarded after 22 minutes as they opened the scoring - ironically from a set-piece.

New Zealand midfielder Simon Elliott flighted in a superb inswinging free-kick from the left flank and Helguson rose above Bruno N'Gotty to plant a firm header past Jussi Jaaskelainen from six yards.

Nolan believed he had drawn Bolton level a minute later but his effort was correctly ruled out for an offside infringement.

There was a distinct air of despondency at the Reebok Stadium with neither set of fans concerned about making too much noise.

But, as Bolton began to rally on the pitch, their supporters gradually awoke from their slumber and provided their team with vocal support.

Wanderers produced goal attempts from Hidetoshi Nakata and Kevin Davies but with Zat Knight and Carlos Bocanegra in fine form at the heart of Fulham's defence the Cottagers hinted they possessed the qualities required to clinch a long overdue away victory.

Tempers began to fray as the interval approached with Nolan booked for a heavy challenge on Steed Malbranque.

Fulham should have made it 2-0 moments later when Boa Morte's cross flew across the face of Bolton's goal but seconds later Wanderers were level.

Stelios' corner from the right was met by Nolan, whose shot was blocked and cleared out only as far as the taker.

The Greece winger's cross was headed goalwards by N'Gotty but in the ensuing scramble Helguson only succeeded in hacking the ball into his own net from point-blank range.

It was a calamitous equaliser for the unfortunate Helguson, but Bolton cared not a jot.

After the restart, Jay-Jay Okocha began to exert a greater influence on proceedings and his whipped cross from the right found Abdoulaye Faye, but the Senegalese midfielder could not control his header.

Moments later Davies crossed for Stelios but the former Olympiakos winger's cheeky back-heel did not trouble Warner.

Bolton began to enjoy a distinct territorial advantage and Nolan's fine individual strike edged his side ahead after 68 minutes.

Collecting possession from Davies' pass down the left flank, the Bolton skipper brushed aside Knight's feeble challenge and showed delightful footwork to skip past Bocanegra.

Having cut in from the left flank, Nolan drove a vicious low shot through Warner's legs to send the Reebok Stadium wild.

However, Fulham came back strongly but despite threatening an equaliser they trooped of the pitch at the final whistle as the only Barclays Premiership side without an away win this term.

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