Villa find their feet at last as Coyle's sense of crisis grows
Bolton Wanderers 1 Aston Villa 2: McLeish's side end barren spell with easy pickings leaving Bolton manager with a 'horrible feeling'
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
The Reebok Stadium
Sunday 11 December 2011
Aston Villa, without a goal in their last three games, found the fire-power for two in quick succession against the worst defence in the Premier League as Bolton slumped into last place in the table.
Alex McLeish's usually shot-shy side should have had far more to show for their dominance than those two strikes in the first half, but they were enough to account for the weary Wanderers, who were jeered off at half-time and full-time.
Marc Albrighton and Stiliyan Petrov were the scorers, but in reality Bolton got off lightly, because on another day Darren Bent could have had a hat-trick.
"The first half, I thought we were amazing," said McLeish. "I'm delighted we've got our first away win of the season. It's been a long time coming."
For Owen Coyle, a few points at home would be a good start to the task of rescuing something from this miserable campaign. "Disappointment would be an understatement," said the Bolton manager. "It's a horrible feeling."
Coyle's side, seeking only their second home win of the season, were at least able to field their England – and former Villa – defender, Gary Cahill, after his red card at Tottenham last week was overturned.
The biggest surprise in the visitors' line-up was the presence of Charles N'Zogbia, after he was left out of their last match against Manchester Unitedfor disciplinary reasons.
Despite their recent barren spell, it was Aston Villa who made the running, always threatening to take advantage of a loose and leaky Bolton midfield.
After the Wanderers fashioned the first semblance of a chance, wasted by Chris Eagles' weak finish, it was virtually all Villa.
They had two gilt-edged chances to take the lead, both of which they squandered, Petrov missing an open goal after Gabriel Agbonlahor had robbed Cahill and Bent shooting straight at the goalkeeper's legs from an equally clear-cut opportunity.
Against a side playing with any confidence, those could have been expensive misses. As it was, after Eagles had hit Brad Guzan, standing in for the injured Shay Given, in the chest with a free-kick, Villa belatedly converted their superiority into goals. Two arrived within six minutes and both owed much to woeful defending. Agbonlahor got his cross in from the left and, although it was just behind Bent, it fell perfectly for the lively Albrighton to net his first goal of the season.
The whole Bolton defence backed away from Petrov for the second, leaving him free for a shot which took a deflection off Cahill on its way past Jussi Jaaskelainen. "Both goals were really soft," said Coyle. "There were four or five individual mistakes within those two goals."
Bolton went off a few minutes later to the booing of their own supporters at half-time and they deserved little better.
The best that can be said about them was that they improved marginally after the break. A clever back-heel from Ivan Klasnic set up Eagles for a shot which Guzan clawed around the post and, from the resulting corner, an unholy scramble ended with Klasnic, who later went off with a knee injury that could further stretch Coyle's resources, finding the net.
With 35 minutes to play, Bolton, almost despite themselves, had genuine prospects of salvaging what would have been their first League draw of the season. The only real opportunities, however, fell to Mark Davies – one fired high, the other comfortably saved.
Even then, Villa should have been pulling further clear, but Bent wasted another glaring chance when his shot took a deflection off Cahill and went wide of the gaping net. The late introduction of Gaël Kakuta injected a little burst of energy, but Bolton were never in serious danger of avoiding their fate. On this form, the Championship looms.
Bolton (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Boyata, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Tuncay (Kakuta, 70) Pratley, M Davies, Eagles; K Davies, Klasnic (Ngog, 78).
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Guzan; Hutton, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Petrov, Herd, N'Zogbia; Bent (Heskey, 80), Agbonlahor.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Albrighton (Aston Villa)
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