Coyle thankful for Davies' loyalty as double keeps Bolton in business

Sunderland 2 Bolton Wanderers 2

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The Independent Football

Back in January, Martin O'Neill was rather keen on signing Kevin Davies. A phone call was made but eventually, with a suspicion Davies was more keen to sign a new deal at the Reebok than move further north at the age of 35, Sunderland politely informed Bolton they were no longer interested.

It was still his name that reverberated around the Stadium of Light yesterday at 4.55pm, when the high fives came from his team-mates and the hug from his manager was that of someone rather glad Davies had not left his football club.

Owen Coyle and his men remain in the fight for survival and the value of two goals from his captain will only become truly apparent as the final drama of this campaign unfolds.

Still, his 70th-minute equaliser felt huge in terms of maintaining momentum and Bolton, without quite the stardust of Wigan, have wind in their sails.

There was a period at Sunderland where having fallen behind, it would have been easy for the visitors to chuck it in, as Coyle later admitted. The hard-fought victory at Aston Villa was only four days ago. It was more travelling. They were probably a bit tired. They had dominated early and with the kind of fluent football their manager likes, had deservedly taken a lead.

It was a fine goal, ending with a sweeping left wing cross from Martin Petrov that Davies had finished with a fine volley. Then they conceded two and had to rely on character, and their captain, scoring another fine header with only 20 minutes remaining.

"Given our exertions from Tuesday night at Villa it would have been easy to feel sorry for ourselves when we went behind but this team doesn't do that and we scored a fantastic equaliser," said Coyle.

"Kevin Davies was superb. He has been a wonderful player, a great leader and terrific captain. He is committed to the club. He was trying to play through knocks earlier in the season.

"I said to stop playing and get fresh and he has come roaring back with the form that got him into England squad. He is so conscientious that he is in there annoyed with himself for giving away the free-kick that got them their second goal.

"Any point at this stage of the season could be a crucial point. What I do think is that we were probably worthy of three points but we have got four points from two difficult away games.

"Our destiny is in our own hands, we have got 14 points from 24. We are on a good run of form. It's been a freak season. Kevin Davies has a huge role to play between now and the end of the season. I'm very confident we can get out of it. I always have been. I know what we have here. Short term we have to make sure we stay in the Premier League."

They were value for that point, but when first Nicklas Bendtner scored towards the end of the first half and then James McClean scored early in the second with a free-kick from 20 yards, it looked like it had slipped away.

Sunderland however are dipping for the line, and there is a paradox, which Martin O'Neill has realised, that finishing too high might not be good for them.

As he pointed out, victory would have taken them to eighth place. As he also pointed out, they are not really a top eight team. At least not yet, and with the owner and chairman Ellis Short in the stands, there is a need for warts and all to be in evidence.

"It would have been great to win," said O'Neill. "We would have gone eighth in the League. I'm not sure we are an eighth-in-the-table team. That is the point. We are where we are. It was frustrating not to win the game today. I will be disappointed of course, but we have work to do here. Bolton caused us plenty of problems all afternoon. They outmuscled us at the start. We got the goal in the second half and I hoped we would go on and win the game but we didn't."

Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Gordon; O'Shea, Turner, Kilgallon (Bridge, 82), Bardsley; Campbell (Elmohamady, 72), Cattermole, Colback, McClean; Sessègnon; Bendtner.

Bolton (4-4-2): Bogdan; Boyata, Wheater, Ream, Ricketts; Eagles (Ryo, 64), M Davies, Reo-Coker (Vela, 78), Petrov; Ngog (Klasnic, 64), K Davies.

Referee Lee Probert.

Man of the match K Davies (Bolton).

Match rating 6/10.