Premier League - Bolton leave Blackburn bottom
Bolton held on to defeat Blackburn 2-1 at Ewood Park and leapfrog their local rivals at the foot of the Premier League table.
Mark Davies had given Wanderers the lead in the fourth minute, and Nigel Reo-Coker’s strike on the half-hour mark brought the disgruntled home fans’ fury to a new level of decibels.
Though Blackburn fought back and halved the deficit through Yakubu’s deft finish halfway through the second period, they were denied a strong penalty claim after Bolton substitute Paul Robinson had brought down fellow replacement Ruben Rochina just inside the box.
Owen Coyle’s side were able to hang on to the crucial three points and ease the pressure on the manager, whilst simultaneously heaping even more on his counterpart Steve Kean.
Blackburn will now prop up the top flight standings on Christmas Day, an ‘honour’ which has resulted in relegation to the second tier in almost every season since the Premier League’s formation.
Perhaps sensing opportunity amidst the snowballing cries of ‘Kean out’ from the Rovers faithful, the visitors took the early initiative and from it went into the lead with little over three minutes on the clock.
Shortly after Reo-Coker had forced a parry from Paul Robinson from a tight angle on the right-hand side of the byline, David N’Gog kept the attack going and slipped the ball inside to Davies.
The midfielder moved inside before unleashing a low drive through the home defence and into the back of the net for his first league goal of the season.
Blackburn continued to have trouble settling into the game against their more determined local rivals, with Jason Lowe and Mauro Formica picking up early bookings for rash challenges.
And though they finally looked more comfortable and began to move the ball into Bolton’s final third halfway through the first period, the Trotters would double their advantage on the half hour mark.
A counter-attack sparked by Ivan Klasnic’s aerial challenge saw Martin Petrov and Reo-Coker exchange passes until the former crossed low from the left for the latter to cap the move with a turn and shot.
The final touch may have belonged to Morten Gamst-Pedersen, but it mattered not to the jubilant Bolton players and fans, nor to the furious home supporters who had re-started their anti-Kean chants in full voice.
Only a superlative block by Grant Hanley denied N’Gog a big chance to make it 3-0 on 36 minutes, and as expected the beleaguered home side trudged off at the interval to the sound of boos aplenty.
Though N’Gog and Klasnic each had opportunities to find that daylight shortly after the hour mark, Rovers finally gave their fans something to cheer on 67 minutes.
Given more creative license after the break, David Hoilett weighted his through pass perfectly for Yakubu to beat the offside trap and await the run of Jussi Jaaskelainen before timing his chip over the keeper perfectly.
Now back within a goal of avoiding the dreaded Christmas curse, the hosts were buoyed and really should have had a penalty with 15 minutes remaining following Robinson’s slide in on Rochina.
Though it was close to claiming the ball, the defender made no contact and also caught the Spaniard with his trailing foot, a challenge not too dissimilar to that of Everton’s Jack Rodwell in the Merseyside derby, also overseen by Martin Atkinson.
With skipper Chris Samba up front with Yakubu and Hoilett, Bolton had the opportunity to break in stoppage time in an attempt to kill the game off for good.
But despite good work from Tuncay and Petrov to send substitute Darren Pratley racing into the box, the former Swansea man could only fire wide of the far post from an angle.
The final whistle, as expected, led to the unveiling of more banners in protest at Kean’s employment at Rovers, while Coyle cut a relieved figure as he applauded the travelling support.