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Santa Cruz badly missed as Blackburn draw blank

Bolton 0 Blackburn 0

Published 20/10/2008

This could, in theory, have been one of those matches which mufflered old hacks used to describe as a Lancashire hotpot. Unfortunately, it was more reminiscent for the most part of another north-west delicacy – tripe.

It was a bland affair in desperate need of a goal or two by way of seasoning. It says everything about the efforts of two poor sides that all the memorable moments and talking points concerned misses, but this was not a game where either of them created enough to deserve to win.

For Blackburn, Jason Roberts, so often a scourge of Bolton in the past, missed a sitter with an unchallenged header in the first half. If he had followed Paul Ince's advice by raising two fingers to his former manager, Gary Megson, he would have merely been keeping count of his squandered opportunities, because he missed another soon after the break.

Bolton were unfortunate that their best chances fell to a player who has not scored for four years – their central defender Andy O'Brien – whose two close-range headers showed a lack of conviction.

Wanderers have trouble with goals and it is a bad sign when Megson admits he is selecting a converted left-back because he is one of the few who might score.

That player, Matthew Taylor, made a hash of a number of shooting chances, but at least he got into the positions, which made him, by some distance, Bolton's most threatening presence. He almost scored a winner that would have been of a different calibre from the rest of the match, taking a lovely cross-field pass from the substitute Ricardo Gardner and firing it just past the far post.

Unfortunately, Johan Elmander, the man Bolton have signed to score goals, carried far less of a threat and has scored just one so far in the Premier League. Many Bolton fans would like to see him get more help, but Megson stuck mainly to his favoured formation of one up front.

It worked at West Ham last time out, but is obviously less effective against defensive-minded opposition at home and it never looked like worrying a well-organised Blackburn back four.

Ince described the performances of Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelsen in the middle of that defence as "world class", but Andre Ooijer was equally effective. Switched from his usual right-back role to the Kevin Davies war-zone on the left, he did a better job on the pugnacious Wanderer than anyone else this season.

There were also glimpses of quality from the Chilean winger Carlos Villanueva, who skimmed the Bolton bar with a rising shot, but Blackburn are not going to terrify anyone without Roque Santa Cruz. He missed this match with a tweaked hamstring and Rovers fans will hope that, when he told the folks back in Paraguay last week that he would rather be playing for Manchester City, something got lost in translation.

Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson (J O'Brien, 77), A O'Brien, Cahill, Samuel; Davies, Nolan, McCann, Muamba (Gardner, 69), Taylor (Riga, 86); Elmander. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Shittu, Smolarek, Hunt.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Simpson, Samba, Nelsen, Ooijer; Emerton, Tugay, Warnock, Villanueva (Derbyshire, 62); Fowler (Andrews, 73), Roberts (McCarthy, 77). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Grella, Khizanishvili, Treacy.

Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire)

Booked: Bolton Steinsson; Blackburn Tugay, Villanueva, Simpson.

Man of the match: Taylor

Attendance: 24,778

Belfast Telegraph

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