Captaincy, Richie Benaud once counselled, is 90 per cent skill and 10 per cent luck, but whatever you do, don't try it without the luck. He was talking about a different sport, but George Burley, the Ipswich manager, must know what he meant. His side's luck has turned for the worse and unless it starts improving soon, it may take them down.
The latest blow is the long-term loss of their top scorer Marcus Stewart, who suffered a broken jaw in training on Saturday. Without the experienced striker Ipswich were distinctly lightweight up front yesterday, and having gone two down mid-way through the first half, never looked likely to record their first league win since 21 August.
The manner in which Ipswich conceded the opening goal set the tone for the first half. Titus Bramble was late in moving to cover Gudni Bergsson as the Icelandic defender attacked Per Frandsen's corner, and the header bounced down and over Matteo Sereni as the goalkeeper tried to block.
If they were uneasy and often hesitant at the back, going forward Ipswich sorely missed a focal point. The fitful support of the 17-year-old Darren Bent left Pablo Counago isolated, and Paul Warhurst's experience and ability to read the game ensured most attacks foundered before they got as far as the solid back four behind him.
Counago was unfortunate when his shot from 22 yards was touched on to the post by the Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, but the visitors were far more threatening.
Shortly after Frendsen had curled a free-kick just over, Rod Wallace flicked on a header Michael Ricketts should not have been allowed to win and Kevin Nolan drove a low shot an inch wide of Sereni's left post.
Two minutes later Nolan's low free-kick from within his own half was flicked on by Bergsson, Ricketts turned beyond a flat-footed Bramble, lifted the ball over the onrushing Sereni and calmly headed home his ninth Premiership goal of the season.
Bolton were in total control when, with half-time approaching, their concentration faltered. Sixto Peralta's dribble seemed to have been stopped, but the Argentinian was allowed to get another foot in and the ball rebounded off the surrounding defenders for Matt Holland to drive home from outside the area.
Lifted, Ipswich came forward, but for all their possession struggled desperately to create any chances. Martijn Reuser ripped a 20-yarder wide of Jaaskelainen's right-hand post, Peralta hit the side-netting from the angle, but otherwise Ipswich barely managed an effort of note.
Burley brought on "Lulu", as his new £1.5m signing from Lorient, Ulrich Le Pen, is apparently known, only for the left-winger to be carried off with a badly gashed foot.
"Two wonderful goals and another sound, solid defensive performance," said the Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce. "We're no mugs now." Burley was philosophical. "These things happen in football. Last season we had no injuries at all. We have to knuckle down and weather the storm." With Internazionale due at Portman Road in the Uefa Cup on Thursday, it is beginning to look more like a hurricane.
Goals: Bergsson (6) 0-1; Ricketts (25) 0-2; Holland (45) 1-2.
Ipswich Town (4-3-2-1); Sereni 5; Hreidarsson 5, Venus 5, Bramble 4, Makin 4 (Le Pen, 80); Magilton 4 (Wright 6, h-t), Holland 6, Reuser 5; Peralta 5, Bent 5 (Naylor, 87); Counago 6. Substitutes not used: Branagan (gk), Gaardsoe.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1); Jaaskelainen 6; N'Gotty 6; Bergsson 7, Whitlow 6, Charlton 5; Warhurst 6 (Farrelly 5, 66); Wallace 5 (Holdsworth 5, 68), Nolan 6, Frandsen 6, Gardner 5; Ricketts 7. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Barness, Johnson.
Referee: S Bennett (Orpington) 6.
Man of the match: Bergsson.
Attendance: 22,335.Reuse content