The last time Bolton faced Newcastle at home, they won 5-1, climbing to 4th in the Premier League. While no one expected them to maintain a spot in 4th, some considered them outsiders for the Europa League places. Then, they lost Stuart Holden in March, Johan Elmander went to midfield and Kevin Davies got old quickly. Bolton got hammered by Stoke in the FA Cup semi-final, and ended up finishing in 14th, having been 6th for most of the year. Their poor run of form has continued, with only 4 wins this season, and despite beating Blackburn last weekend, they are mired in 19th, with the worst defensive record in the league.
Newcastle started this season well, but, coupled with the loss of Steven Taylor, has fizzled out in recent weeks. Mike Williamson, a centre back who started 29 league games for Newcastle last year, returned from a knee injury, meaning that James Perch, a right back, doesn’t need to be played in the middle anymore.
After 69 minutes of little quality and little to write about, Newcastle made the breakthrough. Bolton started pushing up, but Chris Eagles gave the ball away in the middle to Yohan Cabaye. Two passes later, Newcastle led, with Cabaye playing in Taylor, who crossed for sub Hatem Ben Arfa, who fired past Jussi Jaaskelainen. 2 minutes and 8 seconds later, Newcastle got a second. Bolton again gave the ball away in the midfield, with Paul Robinson losing out to Cheik Tiote. Tiote passed to Gabriel Obertan, who took on Robinson before cutting back to Demba Ba, who’s shot looped over Jaaskelainen from 6 yards, likely via a Gary Cahill deflection. It’s Ba’s goal, though, and now 21 goals from 25 games in a wonderful 2011 for the Senegalese.
Alan Pardew will be happy with a return to winning ways, but he’ll also be pleased with the clean sheet, only their second in their last 7. For Bolton, it’s hard to see them moving out of the relegation spots. The worst home record in the league, coupled with a poor away record, and a bad fixture list in January makes the new year not looking very good for Owen Coyle. In truth, it’s not been a good 2011 for him, or for Bolton Wanderers. They’ve been awful since March, lacking the fluid passing that saw them win the hearts and minds of neutrals in late 2010. They were awful again today, and if Steve Kean is getting threatened with the sack, it surely it can’t be far off for Coyle.