Salako seals it

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The Independent Online
Bolton Wanderers 1

McGinlay 16

Coventry City 2

Whelan 44, Salako pen 90

Attendance: 16,678

A SUICIDAL tendency is low on the list of assets for a side already preparing for Friday-night football. Bolton have already thrown a multitude of points away in the dying seconds - but never quite so absurdly.

In a game saturated with errors, their goalkeeper Keith Branagan's folly was in a class of its own. He had safely completed the hard work by dropping a Chris Fairclough back-pass but inexplicably opted for a tricky side- step instead of finding Row C. Noel Whelan slipped the ball away, and away from the goal, but the striker could not avoid Branagan's lunging leg.

John Salako's penalty was a rare formality in a game in which the finishing and defending of both sides was atrocious.

The wind was an obvious contributor to the fluff-factor, though lack of composure on the ball was as guilty an accomplice.

Bolton's problem has been the failure to convert impressive spells into fruitful domination. They were much the brighter side in the first half, prompted by the midfield trickery of Sasa Curcic and the assured Scott Sellars.

The home side's first potent effort sparked a scintillating spell of pressure and their goal. Curcic darted into the Coventry area to clip a shot with the outside of his foot on to the bar. Seconds later, the Serb turned provider, drilling a pinpoint cross from the left to be met by the head of John McGinlay.

He and Nathan Blake threatened the Coventry goal consistently but the visitors gradually settled. Again Coventry's opener was immediately preceded by a shot against the woodwork, Salako's flighted free-kick skimming the bar. He had judged the opposing wind perfectly, as did Ally Pickering when he dinked across into the penalty area from the ensuing play. The crowd jeered, assuming the ball had been mishit, Branagan fumbled and, when Salako fed Whelan following the scramble, the striker's crisp turn found enough space for an unopposed shot on his 21st birthday.

Coventry stormed into the second half but ironically it was Bolton who finished the stronger before the closing drama.

Ron Atkinson, the Coventry manager, believed his side had been careless. "We were making chances and frittering them away, but we always create opportunities because we are adventurous," he said.