It seems a little too early in the piece to be discussing comfort zones, but that's exactly where Owen Coyle fears some of his Bolton players have ensconced themselves, with predictably debilitating effects on their early-season form.
Given it is now nine defeats in 10 Premier League games stretching back to the spring, easy street seems to have been relocated to well before the start of the current campaign. Other than their opening day romp at Queen's Park Rangers, it seems to be an address where Coyle's squad are happy to reside, as the shipping of 13 goals in the last four games and an unwanted club record fifth consecutive home defeat might suggest.
"I'm disappointed and frustrated," the Bolton manager confessed, promising changes in personnel for the forthcoming visits to Aston Villa and Arsenal. He added: "I don't know whether two or three players are in a comfort zone, but if they are, that will soon change."
Ivan Klasnic, sent off before the interval for an apology of a headbutt on Norwich defender Marc Tierney, will be the first recipient of Coyle's new get-tough policy. "He knows my feelings on the red card," the Irishman insisted, somewhat ominously. "It was sheer folly. He's a seasoned international and should know better. He knows he let himself and his team-mates down in a big way."
Perversely, and is often the case, the 10 men performed far more effectively than the 11 had before the break, but the two-goal lead they had gifted the visitors en route to their first away win at this level in 17 years proved too much to surmount. To their credit, they halved the deficit from the spot through Martin Petrov after Leon Barnett's clumsy challenge on David Ngog – the fifth penalty Norwich have conceded this season.
Only a stunning stoppage-time save from John Ruddy to deny Ngog allowed Norwich their first Premier League win on the road since they earned all three points against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park 33 games ago.
A first win of the season was sealed in the space of five first-half minutes as Bolton went missing at two David Fox set pieces. Anthony Pilkington, who started his career nearby at North West Counties League side Atherton Collieries, poked home from a Fox corner. Bradley Johnson, another player to have risen through the leagues, out-jumped defender Dedryck Boyata to head the second from a Fox free-kick.
Midfielder Pilkington, a £1.5 million summer capture from Huddersfield, admitted of his goal: "It wasn't too spectacular, but I suppose you can't score anything other than a scrappy goal from that kind of distance."
Scorers: Bolton Petrov 64 pen. Norwich Pilkington 37, Johnson 42. Substitutes: Bolton Eagles 6 (Tuncay, h-t), Ngog 6 (K Davies, h-t), M Davies 6 (Pratley, 74). Norwich Holt 6 (Morison, 76), Vaughan (Pilkington, 77), Crofts (Hoolahan, 87). Booked: Bolton Jaaskelainen, Reo-Coker, Robinson. Norwich Holt. Sent-off: Bolton Klasnic (45). Man of the match Pilkington.
Match rating 6/10. Possession: Bolton 53% Norwich 47%. Attempts on target: Bolton 7 Norwich 5. Referee H Webb (S Yorkshire).
Attendance 21,223.Reuse content