After shipping four at Portsmouth in midweek the goal rush has abated for Bolton, but the tide has yet to turn. Plugging a leaky defence is one thing, and Bolton proved admirably watertight here, but if they are to avoid their usual struggle against the drop they must do more than that against the likes of Charlton.
They could and should have recorded their first victory of the season, and were cruelly denied when Hermann Hreidarsson kicked Youri Djorkaeff's goal-bound effort off the line in the dying minutes, but despite a second half of almost constant pressure they just could not score.
Defence sorted: now Sam Allardyce must find some penetration. "We sorted one end out today, the midfield was different class," Bolton's manager said after-wards, "but the front end wasn't there, unfortunately.'' Give the state of his goals-against column and his treatment table, it is no surprise Allardyce brought the experienced defender Emerson Thome, signed on a free transfer only 24 hours earlier from Sunderland, straight into his starting line up. With Anthony Barness and Bruno N'Gotty both suffering hamstring injuries in the Portsmouth débâcle, Nicky Hunt was drafted in alongside the Brazilian and Charlton, four-goal winners themselves at fellow-strugglers Wolves, were undoubtedly a cause for concern.
But despite fielding an unchanged side in the continuing absence of the injured Paolo Di Canio, Charlton were the first to wobble. Hreidarsson brought down the striker Kevin Davies a couple of yards outside the box, and when Bolton were given a second chance at the free-kick after the Charlton wall failed to retreat 10 yards, the captain, Jay-Jay Okocha, curled the ball beyond the unsighted goalkeeper, Dean Kiely, only to see it cannon back off the crossbar before being scrambled behind for a corner.
More than 20 minutes elapsed before the seams of Bolton's patched-up rearguard were seriously tested. Scott Parker ran on to Jason Euell's flick to slip clear of the back four, but tried to stroke the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen, who spread himself wide enough to deflect his effort.
The Bolton goalkeeper looked less assured when he flapped at Claus Jensen's floated free-kick. It was the striker Shaun Bartlett who made the solid contact, but his header flew narrowly over. When Matt Holland caught the back four square again it looked as though Bolton's defensive frailties had returned, but Jaaskelainen flung himself to his right to palm away his shot and Charlton's most dangerous spell was over.
The introduction of Stelios Giannakopoulos after the break briefly promised to give Bolton the cutting edge they needed. The little Greek's pace and guile complemented the bulky Davies's more direct approach, and between them they began to pose a serious threat. Davies forced Kiely into a reflex stop at his near post, and the goalkeeper was soon flinging himself towards his other upright to deflect an angled shot from the Greek.
Now it was Charlton who were reliant on set pieces, but Jensen's free-kick - their only real opportunity in the second half - was over-elaborate and over the bar.
Their manager, Alan Curbishley, said: "It was a very hard-fought and scrappy game and chances were few and far between. We were happy with a point.''
Bolton Wanderers 0 Charlton Athletic 0
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