Nolan backs Gerrard over 'accidental' stamping

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The Independent Football

Kevin Nolan yesterday strengthened Jose Mourinho's conspiracy theory regarding the "victimisation" of Michael Essien and weakened Sam Allardyce's argument that Steven Gerrard should be facing a three-match suspension when Nolan described the Liverpool captain's painful challenge at the Reebok Stadium as accidental and unworthy of retrospective punishment from the Football Association. Seeking closure on other contentious issues at Bolton, however, is not so simple.

Among the accusations that flew between Allardyce and Rafael Benitez after the volatile 2-2 draw between Bolton and Liverpool on Monday, including the assertion that both Gerrard and Mohamed Sissoko should have been sent off for alleged stamping and that El Hadji Diouf dived at the merest sight of a red shirt, was the latest in a long line of criticism aimed at the home side's physical style of play.

Claims that Bolton intimidate, resemble a contemporary Wimbledon and push the law to the extreme have been made so often by frustrated managers at the Reebok Stadium that Allardyce has not risen to the bait this season, although Liverpool's complaint proved to be the exception.

"Yesterday I pointed the finger the other way for the first time," said the Bolton manager. "It is becoming an easy excuse for managers to say we use certain tactics when they don't get the right result and everyone suddenly starts believing it. The point is, our boys are fit, well organised and determined. We play to our strengths and we get results. We matched a team who are on top form, who were built for a lot of money and became European champions. We cannot compete with Liverpool financially but we can in terms of discipline, fitness and tactical organisation. That is what upsets bigger managers and bigger teams because they can't cope with how well we do with such little resources."

Allardyce received support for his assessment from a rival Premiership manager yesterday, though the fact that it was Stuart Pearce advocating a place for controlled aggression in the game will come as little surprise.

"I used to play against a 'Little' Wimbledon and I never belly-ached about John Fashanu throwing the odd elbow in my face," said the Manchester City manager. "Bolton are not a Wimbledon though, they've got a lot more about them. They like to get it forward quick and pick up balls around the box but there are a lot of good footballers in that team. It's easy to say Bolton bend the rules if you don't cope with what they throw at you. What Sam is achieving with that club on a consistent basis is sensational."

The FA have confirmed that no action will be taken against Gerrard or Sissoko, who Allardyce had accused of deliberately treading on former Liverpool striker Diouf, having been informed by the referee Mark Clattenburg that he witnessed both incidents and was satisfied he handled them appropriately at the time.

The England international had admitted he was "surprised and disappointed" with the Bolton manager's call for a red card, explaining: "It was a complete accident - he fell into me. I am mates with Kevin Nolan. He's a good Scouser so why would I ever try to deliberately hurt him?"

Nolan added: "I just think Steven's accidentally stamped on me. I thought it might have been deliberate at the time because he hurt me. I don't think there was anything in it."