Two glaring individual errors, leading to two goals in two minutes, were enough to deepen Bolton's relegation anxiety and end Newcastle's winless run. Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba were the men who took advantage of the blunders and, although Wanderers had the bulk of possession before and after the goals, they did not put enough pressure on a defence expertly marshalled by Fabricio Coloccini.
"It was important we gave a more disciplined performance and we did that," the Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, said, still reflecting on the home defeat by West Bromwich Albion last time out. "The team was tight and we didn't give Bolton a lot of opportunities."
After clocking up six Premier League games without a win and their early-season unbeaten run a fading memory, Newcastle did not arrive at the Reebok in any sort of form.
They have another problem looming, because they are already dreading the absence for most of January of Ba, overwhelmingly their leading scorer, on African Cup of Nations duty. There was a glimpse of his incisiveness after just two minutes, when the Bolton defence backed off to allow him to put Leon Best through. That early chance was wasted by a shot wide from a near-impossible angle.
A first half that consisted largely of an energetic and untidy midfield scrap produced precious few other opportunities for either side. Ryan Taylor provided one of his party-piece free-kicks, which had to be well saved by Bolton's Jussi Jaaskelainen. Tim Krul, such a success for the Toon this season, had to do even better to keep out one from Martin Petrov.
Apart from that, the highlight was Jaaskelainen's scramble to get to a diving header from his own left-back, Paul Robinson. It was not exactly a classic. Krul also had to be at his acrobatic best to fist away a dangerous cross from Petrov, who was gradually emerging as a possible match-winner. He also had a fierce shot past the far post, before it all went horribly wrong for Bolton.
The first goal was the tale of two substitutions. Owen Coyle, the home manager, made what he thought was a positive move, bringing on Chris Eagles for the holding midfielder, Fabrice Muamba. Within three minutes, however, Eagles had given the ball away cheaply, Taylor whipped it into the middle for Ben Arfa to put away his first goal since his career-threatening broken leg last season.
The second was just as bad, Robinson this time presenting the ball to Gabriel Obertan, Ba putting the cross into the top corner for his 14th goal of the season, with the help of a deflection off Gary Cahill.
"An ugly goal," Pardew called it, but none the less valuable for that, because it effectively ended the Wanderers interest in the match. "When you shoot yourself in the foot like that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth," Coyle said. The physiology might have been a little confused, but you knew what he meant.
Some of his players will be finding out exactly what he made of their efforts before the New Year's Eve appointment at home to Wolves, because Coyle hinted heavily at changes, even if that means bringing in relatively untried youngsters. "I'm not going to stand by and watch the same mistakes costing us every week," he said.
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