Patterson the terrier delights in dogfight

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The Independent Online
DAVE HADFIELD

Bolton Wanderers 2 Blackburn Rovers 1

Not many midfielders in the Premiership are capable of making David Batty look languid and louche, but Mark Patterson is one such player.

The contest between the two sometimes resembled a bull terrier staring and snarling at itself in a mirror. They are such a good match, but the difference between them is that Batty cost more than the entire Bolton Wanderers team and is an established England international, while Patterson is reckoned, even around Burnden Park, to have more than his share of rough edges.

So, for the diminutive Wanderer, whose most impressive physical assets are his ears, to come out on top was an achievement that typified the way Bolton went about their task.

"He loves a challenge like that," said Bolton's joint manager, Colin Todd, and that applied equally to the side as a whole.

Having played well without reward in their first two matches in the Premiership against Wimbledon and Newcastle, Wanderers' could have been fatally discouraged by Blackburn's equaliser in the second half.

But, urged on by the division's only standing spectators, Bolton picked themselves up and earned their winner, headed home magnificently by Alan Stubbs, the unsettled captain who was jeered by the hard-liners on the terraces.

The uncertainty, not to mention the abuse, is having its effect on Stubbs. Always more stylish than safe - cynics say that the only things more expensive than his eventual transfer to Arsenal are his mistakes - he was the one wobbly element in a defence that smothered Blackburn.

But, if part of Bruce Rioch's legacy to the club is an unhappy central defender, another is a player who must be the bargain of last season. Gudni Bergsson cost a laughable pounds 65,000 from Tottenham Hotspur, a figure belied by his immaculate form since.

On Saturday, the Icelander froze out Alan Shearer, barely allowing last season's leading goalscorer in the Premiership a kick. With Chris Fairclough almost as dominant against the other member of Blackburn's SAS, Chris Sutton, little happened for Rovers up front, although the lack of any incisive service from midfield was also to blame.

The Rovers manager, Ray Harford, compared the outcome to the midweek defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. "We had plenty of possession, didn't make good enough use of it and conceded silly goals. That's a recipe for defeat," he said.

The recipe for Bolton consists of tapping into the ability they have shown in the recent past by treating every Premiership match as a cup tie. Only 35 more cup ties to go.

Goals: De Freitas (21) 1-0; Holmes (61) 1-1; Stubbs (80) 2-1.

Bolton Wanderers (3-5-2): Branagan; Fairclough, Stubbs, Bergsson; Green, McAteer, Patterson, Thompson, Phillips; De Freitas, Coyle (Lee, 60). Substitutes not used: Davison (gk), Sneekes.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Pearce, Hendry, Le Saux; Ripley (Atkins, 85), Sherwood, Batty, Holmes; Shearer, Sutton (Newell, 79). Substitute not used: Mimms (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

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