Asked how many points his Bolton side needed to accumulate in their battle against relegation, Owen Coyle was typically pragmatic. "Win more than the three below us," the Glaswegian said jocularly after the 1-1 draw with Swansea. The point keeps Wanderers in touch with those above them with games in hand, and it is that relaxed attitude which will serve them well if their talented squad is to escape.
Coyle may have been jovial post-match, but he had patrolled the Reebok's technical area like a man feeling the heat throughout. That radiated to his players, seemingly putting them under unnecessary pressure as they continually failed to capitalise on good chances to assert their authority.
In fact one excruciatingly nervous mistake, halfway through the second half, summed up their season. After good work in midfield, Chris Eagles looked menacing as he ran at the away defence, with a man over to his right. The Swans were stretched, but Eagles misjudged his pass, finding Neal Taylor instead of a team-mate, and the move was lost. Coyle sprang up and down, his frustration all too evident.
If Bolton fail to win at Aston Villa tomorrow night, that disappointment might spill over. After all, Coyle has created a team eminently capable of achieving in the division but has endured rotten luck with injuries and illness. It was this fixture that was postponed last month due to Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest at Spurs.
The majority of knocks have come in midfield, with only Mark Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker currently available in a central berth. Eagles was asked to operate in front of them at the weekend and did perform well, but Coyle would love more options. "It makes it difficult because ultimately, if you had five or six to choose from, if somebody needs a break you're able to give them one. We haven't been able to do that," he said. "We have to get on with it. If you want to feel sorry for yourself, you're at the wrong club."
New signing Gregg Wylde looks unlikely to receive international clearance before the end of the season, so Bolton must go with what they have. After picking up 10 points in their last six games, Coyle wants more of the same: "We've been on a decent run and it's going to be a collective effort: defending at one end and being ruthless at the other."
Booked: Bolton - M Davies, Steinsson. Swansea - Williams
Man of match Sinclair
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire)
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