Six days after they shared the billing on that Panorama investigation, Sam Allardyce and Harry Redknapp were again under the spotlight. Or - more to their comfort - the floodlights. The meeting between the clubs they manage, Bolton and Portsmouth, an irony after the most trying of weeks, also had a clearer outcome than the BBC programme with a first-half goal from Kevin Nolan settling the encounter and puncturing the home side's dizzying start to the season.
For Allardyce, in particular, given his lead role in the allegations, which he denies, and yesterday signalled his intent to sue over, it was sweet respite, and Bolton's first away win since December, even if he was indebted to the goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Allardyce strode on to the pitch at the end, punching the air. "Every Premiership match is emotionally exhausting," he later said. "But this was a little more so." After the game and he was confronted by Sky Sports. Their presenter Jeff Stelling asked if he had ever been offered a "bung". "You are out of order asking me that," Allardyce replied, clearly stunned by the directness.
It darkened his mood, and later he refused to take any questions on the issue beyond saying broadly that it was a relief to win after "what has gone on this week". Redknapp said he had sympathy. "Sam has had a difficult time for sure," he said. "He must be feeling it big-time." He would have been feeling it more, but for Jaaskelainen. The Finn made a series of fine saves, in the first-half in particular, getting his finger tips to Sean Davis's volley, from Benjani Mwaruwari's header, to turn it against a post and then pushing another side-footed volley from Matthew Taylor around a post. He then blocked another Davis effort.
The saves proved vital. At the other end and Talal Ben Haim floated in a free-kick which was headed out by Linvoy Primus but only to Nolan on the area's edge. The Bolton captain crashed a volley beyond David James for his first goal of the season and the first conceded in the league by Portsmouth.
It knocked them back. For a while their confidence was drained but, gradually, they built up a head of steam, fuelled by indignity with El-Hadji Diouf again at the centre of things. The Bolton striker was censured for spitting at Portsmouth's then captain Arjan De Zeeuw two years ago and continued a running feud with Taylor, who was himself booked and then withdrawn as he lost his temper.
Soon Portsmouth were distracted further by an horrendous miss by Mwaruwari after he out-muscled Abdoulaye Meite only to slice wide. "We just could not score," Redknapp lamented. At one stage his team enjoyed 75 per cent of the possession but they were almost caught after Nolan reached a flick-on from Ivan Campo's long throw - only to stab over.
By the end Portsmouth's attacking had become frantic. James asked if he, too, should go forward as Sol Campbell became an auxillary striker as they flailed forward. Glen Johnson swerved a drive wide, Kanu had a snap-shot - but the goal proved elusive.
It was also the last match for Milan Mandaric as Portsmouth chairman. Seven years ago he bought the club, then in administration and near the bottom of the second tier of English football. He leaves them close to its summit. But, such is the soap opera around this club, he was ultimately denied the attention he deserved last night.
Goal: Nolan (22) 0-1.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Stefanovic; O'Neil, Davis, Mendes (Thompson, 75), Taylor (LuaLua, 57), Kanu, Mwaruwari (Fernandes, 75). Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Pamarot.
Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Meite, Faye, Ben Haim; Davies, Nolan, Speed, Campo (Tal, 74), Diouf (Giannakopoulos, 90); Anelka (Vaz Te, 87). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Fojut.
Referee: U Rennie (Yorkshire).
Booked: Portsmouth Taylor, Stefanovic. Bolton Campo, Ben Haim.
Man of the match: Jaaskelainen.
Attendance: 19,105.Reuse content