West Bromwich 0 Bolton Wanderers 0: Albion draw a blank in battle to avoid drop

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The Independent Football

Diomansy Kamara wasted the best of few opportunities, slicing wide as Zoltan Gera's pass landed at his feet in front of goal with 18 minutes remaining. His wastefulness condemned Albion to a solitary point, only their third in a calamitous 10-match sequence, and it would have been worse had Kevin Nolan not side-footed over with the goal at his mercy in stoppage time.

At 4.30pm, when Portsmouth led at Charlton, Albion had looked likely to start the match seven points adrift of safety. Pompey's late collapse created fresh optimism, but even against a side that had lost its previous five games, there was abundant early evidence as to why Robson's side lost their way after beating Blackburn in early February.

Bolton looked the more cohesive unit and swiftly doused the fervour of the home crowd. Jay-Jay Okocha was close to giving them a 13th-minute lead with a free-kick that was bound for the top-right corner of the net until it clipped Kamara in the wall and went for a corner.

More than half an hour passed before Albion so much as mustered a shot. Nigel Quashie let fly from 35 yards, only to see the ball sail into a swathe of empty blue seats. Steve Watson's long throw-in, which landed five yards beyond the goal-line, seemed to sum up the poverty of Albion's first-half efforts.

Undaunted, Watson launched another throw in the 37th minute, and this time it almost produced a breakthrough. Kevin Campbell's back-header was met by a thrust of Gera's forehead. Jussi Jaaskelainen parried at point-blank range and Nicky Hunt hacked clear as Andy Johnson lunged in.

Albion's normally partisan followers grew increasingly restless as half chances went begging during an equally scrappy second half. Kamara, in particular, prompted groans for failing to take a swing at the ball as Steve Watson lifted an inviting pass across the six-yard box.

Bolton were repeatedly pushed back, yet when they did send the ball forward to Kevin Davies they were quick to support the lone striker. By contrast, the gap between Albion's midfield and the front two was often conspicuous. Jonathan Greening strove to supply guile to their attacks from an unaccustomed central role. He is invariably more dangerous in a wide berth, however, and one beautifully flighted centre from the left deserved to be met by a header of the ball of the calibre of the late Jeff Astle, whose image adorned the cover of the match programme. Campbell, rising at the back post, was unable to make a connection.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Watson, Davies, Clement, Robinson; Gera, Quashie, Johnson, Greening; Campbell (Kanu, 73), Kamara (Nicholson, 75). Substitutes not used: Albrechtsen, Carter, Inamoto.

Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, N'Gotty, Faye, Gardner; Okocha, Nakata, Speed, Giannakopoulos (Vaz Te, 83), Nolan; Davies. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Campo, Pedersen, Borgetti.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

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