Dickov earns Hughes' praise

Bolton Wanderers 0 - Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Online

Paul Dickov's spectacular early goal ensured that Bolton Wanderers remain in Premiership freefall as Blackburn closed the gap between two clubs who not long ago were eyeing opposite ends of the table to a mere four points and two league places.

Paul Dickov's spectacular early goal ensured that Bolton Wanderers remain in Premiership freefall as Blackburn closed the gap between two clubs who not long ago were eyeing opposite ends of the table to a mere four points and two league places.

Bolton have now lost six on the trot - their worst-ever Premiership run - and played as if they cannot imagine where their next win might come from.

Nervous and ill-at-ease, they looked vulnerable at the back from the start and were punished after only six minutes.

There seemed little danger when Steven Reid steered the ball to Dickov on the edge of the Wanderers' penalty area, but the compact Scottish striker hit a sumptuous volley on the turn which flew past Jussi Jaaskelainen's left hand.

"It was a great goal by Paul. He's having a fantastic season," said his manager, Mark Hughes. "He's got that ability to score goals inside the box and outside. He harasses players and doesn't give the back four any time to settle.

"He'll grab the headlines and rightly so, but he'd acknowledge the work his team-mates did to protect the lead." That lead could have been extended in the first half had it not been for Bruno N'Gotty blockingBrett Emmerton and Jon Stead heading against the bar.

"The second-half was more backs to the wall," said Hughes, who saw his side battle to shed their recent habit of drawing games and start to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom three. "We could have nicked one at the end and made the result more emphatic."

The otherwise admirable Reid missed a clear chance after being set up by Dickov and Stead, but Rovers were undeniably worth their win.

Bolton's Sam Allardyce threw on two strikers at opposite ends of their career in Ricardo Vaz Te and Les Ferdinand to try to salvage something and it was the Portuguese teenager's combination with Ricardo Gardiner that produced their one real opening. Alert defending from Dominic Matteo closed down Stelios Giannakopoulos and the Wanderers never threatened again.

Allardyce believes his side's problems begin at the back, where they have kept only two clean sheets this season, and are now infecting their confidence in attack.

"We didn't produce something wonderful like they did. Dickov's goal was a worthy winner because it was of such great quality, which we've lost in our game," he said. "I haven't had anything like this in five years here."

Allardyce says he might now have to step up his search for reinforcements during the transfer window, but what he really needs is to reawaken confidence in the players he already has at the club.

Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Jaidi, N'Gotty, Gardner; Giannakopoulos (Ferdinand 75), Speed (Hierro 71), Okocha; Diouf, Davies, Pedersen (Vaz Te 52). Substututes not used: Poole (gk), Barness.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Johansson, Matteo; Reid, Ferguson, Flitcroft, Emerton; Dickov, Bothroyd (Stead 25). Substututes not used: Enckelman (gk), Gallagher, Thompson, McEveley.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

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