Hunt's double exposes fragile Bolton's failings
Bolton Wanderers 2 Hull City 2
Wednesday 30 December 2009
Hull City have not won at Bolton since 1935, but got more than they can have dreamt possible at one stage last night as two late goals from Stephen Hunt cancelled out efforts from Ivan Klasnic and Kevin Davies.
Bolton seemed to have the match won, but the Irish winger ensured that this relegation dogfight would end all square. "He epitomised the spirit within this club," said his manager, Phil Brown. "He never gives up and he's never beaten. How do you measure commitment and togetherness? I think I've had a good measurement of that tonight."
Gary Megson, on the other hand, left the Reebok pitch to the familiar sound of booing from his own supporters, mainly outraged by his reaction to the first Hull goal, taking off the popular and dangerous Klasnic. The Bolton manager was unrepentant. "I don't understand their reaction, because I would do exactly the same thing again," he said, looking and sounding, despite his protestations, as though the fans' dislike was finally getting to him.
With only goal difference separating these two sides – and only Portsmouth separating them from bottom place – the importance of this proverbial six-pointer hardly needed underlining. The early stages were what you would expect from two struggling sides; a succession of long balls and free-kicks pumped hopefully into the respective penalty areas.
Bolton took the lead after 20 minutes following good work by their new crowd favourite, Lee Chung-yong. In among all the big men, Lee was an unlikely candidate to win one of those optimistic high balls, but he did so to set up Klasnic for a crisp, low shot from the edge of the area into the left-hand corner of Boaz Myhill's goal.
That might have helped the Reebok to relax slightly, were it not for Bolton's acute discomfort every time they have taken the lead of late, letting advantages slip against Fulham, Manchester City and Burnley recently. The first sign of the collywobbles came when Paul Robinson brought down George Boateng unnecessarily and Andy Dawson's curling left-footed free-kick almost surprised Jussi Jaaskelainen. The Bolton goalkeeper then failed to claim a routine cross and Hunt put a diving header wide.
The same lack of composure in a defence that has not kept a clean sheet in the league all season was evident at the start of the second half and Kamil Zayette should have taken advantage with an unmarked header from Hunt's corner.
Almost immediately, Bolton went to the other end via Robinson's free-kick, Myhill made only the most hesitant of advances and Kevin Davies claimed what should have been a reassuring second goal with a glancing header.
Myhill only partly made up for that with a sprawling save to deny Gary Cahill, before Bolton's jitters struck again, Craig Fagan's cross finding Hunt to score with for a point-blank header. After 78 minutes, Hunt claimed an unlikely equaliser, scoring with an angled volley from the left that was over the line before Robinson could clear.
Bolton could still have collected all three points through Gretar Steinsson's deflected shot, but had only succeeded in blowing it again.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Lee, Cohen, Muamba, Taylor; K Davies, Klasnic (McCann, 75). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Elmander, R Gardner, A O'Brien, Ricketts, M Davies.
Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; Mendy, Gardner, Zayette, Dawson; Garcia (Vennegoor of Hesselink, 64), Boateng, Olofinjana (Geovanni, 75), Hunt; Fagan, Altidore (Barmby, 54). Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Kilbane, Mouyokolo, Ghilas.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Bolton McCann; Hull City Dawson, Mendy.
Man of the match: Hunt.
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