Zola booed as West Ham falter against Bolton
West Ham United 1 Bolton Wanderers 2
A home defeat against fellw relegation strugglers rarely allows players to escape censure from the supporters, and the West Ham United team were duly granted no reprieve. The repercussions for Gianfranco Zola, the manager, could be even more severe.
The Italian's position under the new regime of David Sullivan and David Gold, who continue to make unhappy noises about the extent of the debts they have inherited, has always been under scrutiny – and West Ham's next two fixtures are Chelsea and then Arsenal, both away.
As well as urging them to spend heavily in the club shop and sign up for a West Ham credit card, Sullivan entered a pre-match plea for the fans to make a noise but the boos that marked both the half-time and final whistles were not what he had in mind.
None of this was any concern to Bolton Wanderers, of course, who were 2-0 ahead within 16 minutes and are now up to 13th in the table. Fabrice Muamba's centre-circle challenge on Alessandro Diamanti after 10 minutes might have been a foul but the referee, Lee Probert, allowed play to continue and Kevin Davies rose above his marker to head home Lee Chung-Yong's cross.
The second goal was the sort that does get managers sacked. James Tomkins, the Hammers' centre-back, tried to shepherd the ball behind for a goal-kick but Davies's persistence paid off via an extended leg that hooked the ball across goal for Tamir Cohen to set up Jack Wilshere for his first goal since being borrowed from Arsenal.
Cohen was sent off for two yellow- card offences in the second half, forcing his team-mates to play the final 19 minutes a man down. It almost cost them too, with Diamanti pulling a goal back with two minutes remaining and, after Davies had hit the bar, the woodwork prevented substitute Junior Stanislas from netting an undeserved equaliser in stoppage time.
"The way we started the game determined the result," Zola admitted. "They were better than us and took advantage of the situations they created. We tried very hard in the second half to get back and we couldn't. We have no complaints."
Zola conceded that Tomkins was in danger of losing his place in the starting line-up but offered the mitigating factor that most defenders struggle to match Davies physically.
The Bolton captain's Achilles heel is his scoring record and this was only his sixth of the season and the fourth in the Premier League.
The visiting manager, Owen Coyle, felt he could yet make the England side, however. "I don't think it's far-fetched," he said. "There's no doubt that Kevin Davies would never let anybody down."
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the match: Davies