Spurs struggle against muscle of Davies

Bolton Wanderers 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2: Megson's side pegged back by Croatian double act to leave Wanderers waiting for home victory
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The Independent Football

Fabio Capello scratched his chin towards the end of the first half and his general manager, Franco Baldini, yawned. On display were six of England's stand-by squad for the next two weeks but the individual who left the biggest impression was a 32-year-old striker whose chances of earning a call-up rank somewhere behind Michael Owen's.

Kevin Davies' 69th-minute goal, a brave, low header which carried the risk of collision with the post when he dived for it, had all of the player's hallmarks and if Capello visited Bolton more often then he would know have known that Benoît Assou-Ekotto, who gave up the ghost as Davies muscled in, was one of many defenders who don't tend to fancy the contest when the striker is around. He may lack the ostentation of other strikers but his interlinking play is deft for a 6ft man and his control of a 20-yard pass quite exquisite.

Tottenham's England prospects were less appetising. Aaron Lennon had one of his absent afternoons while Peter Crouch, who had been selected in Jermain Defoe's place for the aerial force he could provide in both penalty areas, squandered an outstanding opportunity and was otherwise capably dealt with by Gary Cahill, another prospect for the trip to Ukraine this week. Defoe would have woken Baldini as he made an immediate impact after arriving from the bench. His 23 minutes of football showed that his hand injury will not stop him maintaining his own push for an England starting place.

Bolton's manager, Gary Megson, is braving a fairly unpleasant time, a pre-match survey of supporters bearing out the local view that his side lack ambition and aesthetic appeal. Lost in that analysis is Megson's capacity for unearthing talent. Cahill is the prime example – what wouldn't Redknapp have given for his rapidly emerging talent? – but Megson's £2.2m South Korean summer acquisition, Chung-Yong Lee, making his first start, reinforced the impression with bustling energy and close control and Tamir Cohen, who cost £75,000, completed the picture.

They and Davies deserved better than the draw Spurs rescued and Megson was right to feel indignant about Harry Redknapp's one dimensional characterisation of Bolton. "If you take the average height of our players, it's lower than his," Megson said. "We can't change people's perceptions. We played really well today and the big disappointment is we should have scored more goals."

They seemed destined for many as Tottenham's makeshift defence, anchored uncomfortably by Tom Huddlestone and Sébastien Bassong, displayed all the properties of the litter which danced untidily across the pitch in the Lancashire gale. Bolton took four minutes to puncture it. Fabrice Muamba hoisted in a long throw and Ricardo Gardner was allowed a free header on to Lee, whose shot Carlo Cudicini could only parry out to Gardner, still unmarked, who fired in Bolton's opener.

Tottenham were curiously reluctant to put Crouch to the work he was starting for but the first time they did, Wilson Palacios sending a long ball up for the striker to knock down, the Croatian Niko Kranjcar was free and waiting to lash in a 34th-minute equaliser.

Tottenham gathered momentum after the interval, though Bolton went ahead again after an exquisite backheel from Lee returned the ball to Cohen, who floated to the far post for Davies' header. Defoe had been on the field for a few minutes when his shot rebounded off Jussi Jaaskelainen to Crouch, whose shot was saved. Vedran Corluka slipped Sam Ricketts minutes later to head home an equaliser from Kranjcar's corner.

Megson provided an unsettling report of his half-time protest to the referee, Mike Jones, about the number of times Davies had been penalised. "The ref said 'I've only given two fouls against him. Have you seen his record?' It's not the referee's job to look at someone's record." More preconceptions about Davies, apparently. Perhaps it is time for Capello to put them aside.

Attendance: 21,305

Referee: Mike Jones

Man of the match: K Davies

Match rating: 8/10

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