Rovers are stubbed out

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The Independent Online
Bolton Wanderers 2

De Freitas 21, Stubbs 80

Blackburn Rovers 1

Holmes 61

Attendance: 20,253

IF THERE is a better way of opening a Premiership account, no side this season is likely to find it. Bolton Wanderers, their confidence precariously balanced after defeats in their first two matches in the top flight, were full value for their victory over last season's champions. If the way that they took on and overcame Blackburn does not top up their self-belief, nothing will.

A goal 11 minutes from time from Alan Stubbs gave Bolton the three points, and the fact that their captain was the scorer could yield another psychological benefit. Stubbs, publicly unsettled all summer, has been the target of barracking from a section of the Burnden Park crowd and at times yesterday his play in Bolton's three-man defence was distinctly unstable.

But the way he rose to head home Mark Patterson's free-kick and give Bolton their first Premier League victory ensured that all was forgiven, at least for the time being. Patterson, outbattling David Batty in a combative midfield performance, was another of the major factors in Bolton's success. His drive and aggression, coupled with the skills of Alan Thompson and Jason McAteer, made sure that the newcomers never looked out of their depth.

Amid a stirringly old-fashioned scene - two Lancashire teams playing each other in the rain on the one Premier League ground where spectators can still stand - they were in their element. Another unlikely hero was Fabian De Freitas, derided by Bolton fans for much of last season until he began to come good during the promotion run-in.

"I always said that this year would be his year," said Bolton's joint manager, Colin Todd. "Last season he was settling in and finding it difficult. This season, he knew he was going to get his opportunity and he has grasped it."

The deceptively quick Dutchman certainly grasped the opportunity which fell to him after 20 minutes. Blackburn twice failed to clear Scott Green's long cross and De Freitas hooked the ball into the roof of the net.

Bolton could have been further ahead after an invigorating first-half display that recalled their recent Cup triumphs. Blackburn, living proof during those first 45 minutes of the old adage that it is harder to retain a title than to win one, dominated the early stages of the second half, with an equaliser looking inevitable even if, when it came, it owed a good deal to fortune.

Matt Holmes, their summer recruit from West Ham, turned away from Stubbs and shot, but his strike would have missed the target had it not struck Gudni Bergsson's leg on its way to the corner of the net.

Bolton's response to that ill luck marked them as a team of character and the decision to bring on one of their old Cup heroes, David Lee, proved a master stroke. His right-wing run, ended by Graham Le Saux's trip, produced a free-kick headed home majestically by Stubbs.

The 23-year-old Bolton captain remains determined to leave. "It's just a matter of personal ambition" he said yesterday. "I want to play for a top side and it is not as if I've got a lot of time left." Wherever he goes however he will be hard-pressed to find team-mates with more spirit.

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