Bolton's best left blowing in the wind

Bolton Wanderers 0 - Middlesbrough 0
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The 100th league meeting between Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough ended in a goalless draw last night as the home side missed out on what would have been a sixth successive Premiership win.

The 100th league meeting between Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough ended in a goalless draw last night as the home side missed out on what would have been a sixth successive Premiership win.

The teams were separated by only a point before the game, and Middlesbrough maintained their place in the top six with what Steve McClaren will surely regard as a moral victory, considering he was without several first-team players.

Their next game is against AK Graz in the Uefa Cup - a competition they qualified for at the expense of Bolton by winning last season's Carling Cup final - but it is questionable whether conditions in Austria on Thursday will be any less conducive to football than the raw, windswept evening they encountered in the North-west last night.

Despite that, the first half, in particular, did have its entertaining moments but Bolton will know they wasted an opportunity to climb above their Teesside rivals.

Bolton were at virtually full strength and able to introduce their recent signing Vincent Candela as a substitute, but Boro's squad is looking more threadbare almost by the week, particularly in midfield. The present mood of despondency at the Riverside was summed up before the game by McClaren, who said: "We are in the top six but our form recently has been bottom six."

In the absence of the suspended Ray Parlour and Bolo Zenden, and with the likes of George Boateng and Gaizka Mendieta injured, Doriva anchored an otherwise youthful midfield. At least Stuart Downing, fresh from his England debut last week, was fit enough to start, albeit more centrally than usual on the left of a midfield three. Understandably in view of the personnel available to him, McClaren had deployed an extra central defender.

Yet for all that, Boro did their fair share of attacking, creating several clear openings on the break, and ought to have been ahead within two minutes. Mark Schwarzer's punt downfield had the benefit of a strong tailwind and bounced beyond the Bolton defence into the path of Joseph Desire Job. Through on goal and with time to compose himself, the Cameroon forward shot inexplicably wide.

In an open start to the game, only a double save from Schwarzer prevented Bolton going ahead after a quarter of an hour. Kevin Nolan's curled shot from the edge of the area was tipped against the crossbar, only for a weak header from Kevin Davies to give the grateful keeper a chance to drop on to the ball.

At the other end Michael Reiziger's 80-yard dash down the left flank was rewarded by a fine pass from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Job was alone in the box waiting for the cross but Jussi Jaaskelainen beat him to it.

Another defender keen to push forward was Anthony Barness, Bolton's reserve right back, who came close with a 25-yarder that Schwarzer had to help past the post.

Typically streetwise work by Ivan Campo, earning a free-kick when surrounded by red shirts then taking it quickly to Ricardo Gardner, led to another excellent opportunity for Bolton at the beginning of the second half. Gardner's cross was driven low across the face of goal but Nolan was unable to apply the decisive touch.

As Middlesbrough retreated progressively deeper into their own half, Jay Jay Okocha began to enjoy more influence on the game. The Bolton captain saw one long-range effort saved by Schwarzer. Then he jinked past two defenders before floating a cross-field pass to Nolan that would have been impressive in any conditions let alone amid the gusting winds that were swirling around the Reebok.

In the closing stages the match, like the wind, died away rather despite late efforts from Gary Speed and Okocha to break the stalemate.

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