Bolton Wanderers 3 Stoke City 1: 'Trust' encourages Megson to target top-half finish

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The Independent Online

The idea that Stoke City's opening-day pain must be worse for having lost to Bolton Wanderers presupposes that Gary Megson's side, having dodged relegation in May, themselves face a struggle. Strangely enough, Bolton do not see it that way.

Evading the drop by one point is regarded as a blip rather than a trend. After four consecutive finishes between sixth and eighth, Bolton see the top half of the Premier League as their natural habitat and expect normal service to be resumed.

"I think the club lost a bit of momentum last season, which is understandable when you've had the same manager for eight years and he suddenly leaves," Megson said. "There is bound to be a period of change.

"The club has grown and developed year on year and I see the money that I have been given to strengthen the squad as a vote of confidence in me to continue that development and a signal that we are all pulling in the same direction.

"I have been given money to try to take the club forward but there has never been any argument about the players I want to bring in. There is a trust there that I'm thankful for."

This match brought an immediate pay-off as Johan Elmander, the Swedish international striker signed for £8.2m from Toulouse, capped his debut with a goal and seemed to have an instant rapport with Megson's three supporting attackers in front of a central midfield in which Fabrice Muamba, at £5.5m from Birmingham another significant capture, imposed authority from the outset.

After Gretar Steinsson, a pacy and positive full-back, had flukily put Bolton ahead with an intended cross, Stoke fell apart as Kevin Davies and Elmander exposed defensive errors with two goals in four minutes.

Ricardo Fuller's late header gave Tony Pulis's promoted team something to build on but while Dave Kitson, their headline summer signing, produced the odd decent moment, and Fuller and Liam Lawrence raised the standard in the second half, it is clear they need to adapt fast to their new environment. Otherwise it will be down to character.

"We were 3-0 down in the blink of an eye," defender Andy Griffin said. "But we got some pride back in the second half. You dust yourself down, try and correct a few little things and look forward to the next game."

Goals: Steinsson (34) 1-0; Davies (41) 2-0; Elmander (45) 3-0; Fuller (90) 3-1.

Bolton Wanderers (4-2-3-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O'Brien, Samuel; Muamba, J O'Brien; Davies, Nolan, Taylor; Elmander (McCann, 76). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Hunt, Gardner, Mustapha, Shittu, Cohen.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Griffin, Cort, Shawcross, Wilkinson (Dickinson, 76); Delap, Olofinjana, Whelan (Lawrence, 56), Cresswell; Sidibe (Fuller, 65), Kitson. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Pericard, Diao, Amdy Faye.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Bolton Wanderers Steinsson; Stoke City Olofinjana, Lawrence.

Man of the match: Muamba.

Attendance: 22,717.

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