Newcastle brought back to reality by Gardner's strike

Bolton Wanderers 1 Newcastle United 0
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The Independent Football

If not complacency, then perhaps it was an air of unreality that settled on St James' Park over the past week. Managing director Derek Llambias spoke publicly for the first time and, after three games unbeaten, Newcastle United seemed from within to be growing in confidence. That was the mood music.

Yesterday Bolton took a nail to Newcastle's shiny record and put a scratch right across it. Now the vital statistic is one win in nine league games.

Newcastle face Manchester United on Wednesday night singing a different song – "Help!" They remain in relegation trouble; after Wednesday it is Hull away, Arsenal and Chelsea at home and then Stoke away.

This is a fixture list that engenders concern among their support who gave a rendition of "We're shit and we know we are," and who chanted: "You don't know what you're doing," at assistant managers Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood when they replaced Obafemi Martins with Mark Viduka with 11 minutes remaining at the Reebok Stadium.

That was a substitution of miserable ambition – though Martins had missed a near-open net with a free header three minutes before half time.

The scale of Martins' mistake was upped two minutes after the interval when substitute Ricardo Gardner ran away from Fabricio Coloccini on to Matty Taylor's low cross and scooped a shot over Steve Harper.

Manager Gary Megson refused to take credit for the Gardner substitution just as he refused to get excited over signing a "new" contract. Megson said he had "not signed anything" when he arrived 16 months ago.

Swedish forward Johan Elmander could have put Bolton two goals to the good in the first 20 minutes – and Alan Wiley failed to award a 15th-minute penalty when Sébastien Bassong clattered into Kevin Davies.

Bolton were slipshod after Gardner's goal. Newcastle had most of the ball and Jlloyd Samuel clearly handled Coloccini's 78th-minute shot in the area. Wiley failed to give that as well. Then Peter Lovenkrands skewed a last-minute shot wide. Reality bit back.

Goal: Gardner (47) 1-0.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O'Brien, Samuel; M Davies, Muamba (Gardner, h-t) McCann, M Taylor; K Davies, Elmander (Smolarek, 80). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Shittu, Puygrenier, Makukula, Basham.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; S Taylor, Coloccini, Bassong, Enrique; Lovenkrands, Butt (Geremi, 66), R Taylor, Gutierrez; Ameobi, Martins (Viduka, 79). Substitutes not used: Forster (gk), Edgar, Cacapa, Smith, Carroll.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Bolton M Taylor, Smolarek; Newcastle Butt, Gutierrez, R Taylor.

Man of the match: A O'Brien.

Attendance: 20,763.