Gardner cultivates City's away worries

Bolton Wanderers 2 Manchester City 0
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The Independent Football

The impatient Bolton supporters who had been clamouring for Gary Megson's head found themselves obliged to change their tune after the substitute Ricardo Gardner condemned Manchester City to a fourth away defeat and earned Bolton a first win in four matches.

The Bolton winger scored his first goal of the season after 76 minutes and forced an own goal by the City captain Richard Dunne two minutes from the end as the expensively assembledvisitors confirmed their manager Mark Hughes' assertion that his team remains a work in progress.

City were outfought by opponents with an appetite for physical hard work with which, by Hughes' own admission, they could not compete. "We are a team that is technically very good but we do not have the variation of players to give us different qualities," Hughes said. "We were beaten by a team who worked exceptionally hard and did not allow us to play our own game."

It took the heat off Megson, who has struggled to win over the Reebok Stadium crowd despite staving off relegation last season and was subjected to barracking after last Wednesday's home defeat to Everton by fans fearing another season at the wrong end of the table. Yet his players responded with a fiercely determined and, ultimately, properly rewarded performance. "The fans will react to what they see," Megson said. "But the only real difference between this and most of our home games was that we scored a couple of goals."

The goals increased the tally conceded by City to 18 so far, which is a reflection of defensive short-comings that have led Hughes to use nine players in no fewer than 16 combinations in an almost constantly rotating back four.

Yesterday, Pablo Zabaleta returned from suspension at right back, with Micah Richards again looking uncomfortable on the left, a position in which his chances of impressing the watching England manager, Fabio Capello, were not enhanced.

The outcome might have been different had Jussi Jaaskelainen not pulled off a number of fine saves on the few occasions City's creative flair managed to break free from the shackles imposed by Bolton's five-man midfield. The Finnish goalkeeper narrowed the angles to defy first Stephen Ireland and then Ched Evans in the first half before keeping out a Shaun Wright-Phillips header and, early in the second half, a curling shot by Robinho.

But Bolton, who felt they should have had a penalty 18 minutes into the second period when Dunne's lunge sent Taylor tumbling, never flagged and they were rewarded first when Taylor dispossessed Robinho deep inside the Bolton half and set off a counter-attack that culminated in Gardner slamming home Gretar Steinsson's low cross.

It was a blow to City's hopes compounded after 88 minutes on another counter attack as Gardner's attempt to find Kevin Davies with a low cross from the left was turned into his own net by Dunne.

Goals: Gardner (77) 1-0; Dunne og (88) 2-0.

Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O'Brien, Samuel; Riga (Gardner 43), Muamba, McCann, Nolan, Taylor; Davies. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Shittu, Hunt, Smolarek, Helguson, Basham.

Manchester City (4-1-2-1-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Ben-Haim, Dunne, Richards; Kompany; Ireland, Elano; Wright-Phillips; Evans, Robinho. Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Onuoha, Garrido, Hamann, Fernandes, Caicedo, Sturridge.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Bolton Jaaskelainen; Manchester City Zabaleta.

Man of the match: Gardner.

Attendance: 21,095.