Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Bolton edge Birmingham at Reebok Stadium

Bolton Wanderers 2 Birmingham City 1

Birmingham celebrated their best league finish since 1959 despite a final day loss to Bolton Wanderers thanks to goals from Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic.

For Bolton, the summer holds the prospect of looking forward to a tenth consecutive season of Premier League football. By such standards are campaigns viewed a success for many outside the division's elite.

Security long since assured, the fact this was just about as low-key as any fixture on the day's card should not have come as too much of a surprise and led to each side throwing caution to the wind to a large extent. In the case of Bolton, that led to Davies slipping his marker to meet Paul Robinson's left-wing free-kick with a header, seven yards out, which gave Joe Hart no chance.

The home team's lead was doubled just before the hour as the latest in a series of clever passes from Jack Wilshere played in Vladimir Weiss who, with the aid of some terrible defending, squared for Klasnic to score. The visitors fought back through lively substitute Christian Benitez who was awarded a 75th-minute penalty after a minor entanglement with Zat Knight. After Benitez's kick was well saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen – who then blocked Lee Bowyer's follow-up attempt – James McFadden eventually scrambled the ball home at the far post.



The fact it had taken Birmingham three attempts to score from the penalty summed up their problems on the day, if not the season as a whole. Alex McLeish's side might have been on their way to making mathematically certain of ninth place inside the opening 90 seconds when a good run from Cameron Jerome climaxed in an intelligent pass back across the area, which Bowyer completely mis-hit.



Hart, one of the big success stories among many at St Andrew's this season, saved superbly from Matt Taylor, but Jerome, twice, and Bowyer were again guilty of poor misses from promising situations.



City's frustrations might have worsened considerably before the interval after Wilshere's shot appeared to hit the arm of Liam Ridgewell in the area and, after no penalty had been awarded Taylor again missed woefully. The introduction of Benitez, however, added mobility and urgency to the attack and the Ecuador international glanced wide moments before winning the penalty that brought down the curtain on a season to remember for Birmingham.



Bolton (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Knight, Cahill, Robinson; Weiss (Chung-Yong, 66), Muamba, Wilshere, Taylor; K Davies, Klasnic. Substitutes not used: Samuel, Gardner, M Davies, Ricketts, Al Habsi.



Birmingham (4-4-2): Hart; Carr, Johnson, Ridgewell, Vignal; Larsson (Benitez, 66), Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden; Jerome, Michel (Fahey 75). Substitutes not used: Taylor, Murphy, Fahey, Parnaby, Carsley, Mutch.



Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).



Booked: Bolton Klasnic; Birmingham Ridgewell, McFadden, Johnson.



Man of the match: Weiss

Independent

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