Much was made in the build-up to Saturday's game at Upton Park of the fact Kevin Davies of Bolton Wanderers had scored eight goals in his previous ten appearances against West Ham United. Very little was said about Johan Elmander, but then a striker who does not score goals seldom attracts much attention – of the right sort, anyway.
Now, perhaps, the Sweden forward, signed from Toulouse in 2008 for £10m, will have earned more column inches. Two goals, even against a generous West Ham defence, represented his best haul in a Premier League game since a 4-1 victory away to Sunderland in November 2008. Elmander had previously scored only once for Bolton since Owen Coyle took over as manager in January, but he had volleyed a memorable winner for his country against Wales in March and Coyle claimed he had always had faith in the apparent underachiever he had inherited.
"It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but when he scored that wonder goal I remember telling him to wear that Sweden shirt underneath his Bolton top for the next game," he said. "People were making a big thing about him not scoring and that's a side of football we understand because of the level we're at, but I have been a tremendous believer in Johan from day one – I'm not trying to be clever now. It's up to him now to keep showing that level and to keep having that hunger."
It was Elmander's header that Matthew Upson deflected into his own net to give Bolton the lead early in the second half, and he doubled the advantage after 68 minutes when he nodded home Chung-Yong Lee's cross. He scored his second following a defensive lapse soon after Mark Noble had pulled one back for West Ham from the penalty spot. Davies, whom Coyle described as "a real number nine", was kept off the scoresheet for once, but was involved in all three goals, pressuring Upson for the first and having a foot and a forehead in the second and third.
The contrast with the fortunes of the two West Ham forwards was extreme. Frederic Piquionne had an undistinguished home debut, while Carlton Cole provided little to vindicate those who thought he should have gone to South Africa with England. His under-hit first-half penalty was easily saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen and he was jeered off by a section of the crowd when he was substituted in the second half. "I think he doesn't deserve it," West Ham manager Avram Grant said. "He tried his best. He was not at his best but it can happen to anybody. He's a good lad and he will score a lot of goals for us."
There was more jeering at the end, and the early indications are that Grant must strengthen. Stubborn defenders appear to be the priority, but the size of West Ham's debt means money must be raised by selling first. In any case, the transfer window will probably shut with them in the bottom three, given that their next opponents are Manchester United, with Chelsea to come after that.
"We knew the next two games were tough fixtures," Grant said. "They are especially so after today because we lost, but we will try to take points from them. Today, we created five times more chances but didn't score."
West Ham United 4-4-2: Green; Faubert, Gabbidon, Upson (Reid, 54), Ilunga; Barrerra, Parker, Noble, Dyer (McCarthy, 77); Piquionne, Cole (Sears, 87). Substitutes not used Stech (gk), Kovac, Boa Morte, Tomkins.
Booked Parker, Noble.
Bolton Wanderers 4-1-3-2: Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Muamba; Lee (Taylor, 81), Holden, Petrov (Blake, 88); K Davies, Elmander (M Davies, 86). Substitutes not used Bogdan (gk), O'Brien, Ricketts, Klasnic. Booked Steinsson, Robinson, K Davies, Elmander.
Man of the match Elmander.
Possession West Ham 54% Bolton 46%
Shots on target West Ham 7, Bolton 5.
Referee T Bates. Attendance 32,533.
Match rating 7/10.