When you are newly-promoted and are finding the Premier League an unforgiving place, you welcome crumbs like a feast. West Bromwich Albion probably feel they should have got more yesterday, but they came away from the Reebok with their first point of the season.
They were the more attractive team, hit the bar though Do-Heon Kim and went close with several other chances, but it was their obduracy that finally got them their first reward of the campaign. It was grit as well as grace that earned them their draw.
No more so than in the closing minutes when Bolton Wanderers, who were in one of their less imaginative moods, threw their heavy artillery at them. Kevin Davies had the ball in the net twice in the final three minutes but both "goals" were ruled out, correctly ,for offside. West Bromwich. who had lost their first three League and Cup matches. might feel their luck is changing.
Rated as the most likely promoted team to survive in the Premier League this season, alarms were beginning to deafen when they followed up defeats to Arsenal and Everton with a midweek reverse against Hartlepool in the Carling Cup, so this draw was embraced more than most. "It was a game where we could easily have got three points," Tony Mowbray, the West Bromwich manager, said, "but we could easily have lost it as well. The most pleasing thing is that we stood up to the bombardment that came our way.
"The players believe they can compete in this league but if we had lost 1-0 there might have been journalists talking about no points and only one goal. But I think we showed, particularly in the first half, that we can cope in this league."
Bolton have been coping in the top division for some time but they , too, had a Carling Cup embarrassment against Northampton Town on Tuesday, so neither side had reason to flex their over-confidence and it took a time for the game to form a pattern. When it did arrive, it was soon apparent that Albion played the purer football and Bolton the more physical stuff. What's new, you might ask.
Kevin Davies was pulled up for being over-muscular three times in the first 15 minutes and Kevin Nolan and Gavin McCann had been cautioned by the interval so it was left to the visitors to provide the culture in the first half. James Morrison had a 25-yard shot tipped round the post by Jussi Jaaskelainen but the purest piece of play before the interval was a blur of passes on the left from Albion in the 33rd minute. Morrison, Do-Heon Kim and Paul Robinson sliced througb Bolton's defence with a series of single touches and if Borja Valero's attempt to bend a shot round Jaaskelainen had carried equal precision Albion would have taken the lead.
Bolton thought they should have had a penalty when Riga was brought down after 64 minutes but television replays showed the challenge had been fractions outside the area and Robinson might even have got a touch of the ball. Riga's freekick was curling for the top corner when Scott Carson flicked the ball away for a corner.
The momentum appeared to be swinging towards Bolton until it was arrested by Kim's 30-yard shot after 78 minutes that crashed against the bar and bounced on the line. Miller followed up with a point-blank header only for Jaaskelainen to spread himself and save with his legs.
That was the last effort from Albion who had to cling on in the closing minutes as the home team rolled forward and Davies was twice be foiled by the linesman.. "I'm disappointed," Gary Megson, the Bolton manager, said. "I thought we were doing all the pushing in the last 10 minutes."