Bolton Wanderers gained their first win in 11 Premiership games with a stoppage-time goal by Kevin Nolan at St Andrew's last night, but their on-loan striker El Hadji Diouf was accused by a Birmingham City fan of spitting into the crowd when celebrating his early goal.
Diouf, who was banned for three matches earlier in the season for spitting at Portsmouth's Arjan de Zeeuw and previously appeared in the Glasgow sheriff's court after subjecting a Celtic supporter to similar treatment while playing in a Uefa Cup tie for Liverpool, allegedly repeated the act after putting Bolton ahead in the 17th minute.
The referee, Uriah Rennie, confirmed he had been made aware by a Birmingham steward of the allegations at half-time. However, Mr Rennie added that he would not be including them in his report because he had not witnessed anything himself. Birmingham have pledged to investigate the incident, but the likelihood is that any action by the Football Association would depend on television cameras having caught Diouf in the act.
Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager, was reluctant to comment on Diouf, saying: "Because of his past history he's an easy target." Allardyce preferred to talk about his relief that a "massively difficult" run was over. "I'd forgotten what it feels like to win," he said. He believed his rotation of players had been instrumental in breaking the spell as only one player had completed all four "holiday" fixtures Diouf and Bolton looked fresher in the final 10 minutes.
The sideshow of Robbie Savage's rejected transfer request threatened to be a distraction from the main attraction. Before kick-off, cameramen scanned the VIP seats for the midfielder after Birmingham's manager, Steve Bruce, failed to include the Wales international in his 16.
Birmingham's managing director, Karren Brady, had earlier expressed her "surprise and disappointment" that Savage might want to leave for Blackburn. Birmingham's fans were soon experiencing similar emotions after another controversial blond put Bolton ahead.
Nolan's right-wing cross was met by a thunderous volley from Jay-Jay Okocha. Maik Taylor parried, but Diouf despatched the rebound high into the net. Bolton deserved their advantage, having looked sharper as Okocha and Gary Speed controlled the midfield in Savage's absence.
Birmingham had their moments, too, with Emile Heskey and Stan Lazaridis forcing Jussi Jaaskelainen to show his agility, and strong pressure produced a 65th-minute equaliser. From a corner by Darren Anderton, Clinton Morrison's overhead kick shook the underside of the bar. This time Matthew Upson was on hand to force the ball in.
Bolton, whose last win came against Newcastle on 31 October, looked set to be frustrated again until Okocha again took aim from 25 yards in the final minute. Again, Taylor could not hold on and Nolan ran in the winner.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Tebily (Gray 64); Johnson, Clemence (Clapham 73), Anderton, Lazaridis; Morrison (Yorke, 76), Heskey. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Martin Taylor.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Jaidi, N'Gotty, Gardner; Campo; Nolan, Speed (Hierro, 74), Okocha, Giannakopoulos (Pedersen 56); Diouf. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Ben Haim, Vaz Te.
Referee: U Rennie (South Yorkshire).Reuse content