Bolton Wanderers managed to lift themselves out of the relegation zone with an important win over Blackburn Rovers courtesy of two first-half goals from David Wheater.
After a stale opening half hour at the Reebok stadium, the game sprung into life when David Wheater scored two headers for the home team in a seven-minute salvo. Blackburn rarely threatened and was unable to mount a comeback, despite pulling back an early second-half goal through Steven N’Zonzi.
This was Bolton’s return to Premier League action after the shock cardiac arrest of Fabrice Muamba in last Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur. The unfortunate circumstances meant that Bolton was left with a game in hand against its relegation rivals after the club postponed the game against Aston Villa on Tuesday evening.
Blackburn Rover’s recent run of form has seen them rise from the relegation zone and establish a three-point cushion between the drop zone. Yet a win for either team would prove invaluable to their survival hopes.
The Trotters remained unchanged from their last league outing in the win against QPR. It was only defender Gael Givet who remained a doubt for the visitors with Junior Hoilett, who scored two goals against Wolves a couple of weeks ago, retaining his place.
Bolton started the brighter, and it recorded the first effort on target. In the eighth minute, an unchallenged Martin Petrov hammered in a shot from over 25 yards out which was awkwardly parried away by Robinson and hacked away further by Grant Hanley.
Petrov was causing a few problems for Blackburn down the left, and his strong run in the 18th minute saw him get to the byline and produce a whipped cross into the box which flew just over the head of Rio Miyaichi at the far post.
One of Blackburn’s few forays forward saw Hoilett denied a penalty in the 22nd minute after the young Canadian charged into the area, only to be sandwiched between two Bolton defenders.
But it was the Trotters who broke the deadlock in the 28th minute. A Bolton corner from the left was poorly defended by Blackburn and the ball re-found the corner-taker Petrov. He was then able to whip in a ball which fell into the path of Wheater, who emphatically headed into the bottom corner.
The home team, obviously buoyed by the goal, continued to pressure the Blackburn goal, and a cross from Mark Davies found Darren Pratley just outside the box but the ball was headed over.
Almost immediately, Blackburn stormed up the other end and came close to converting. A well measured cross from Marcus Olssen was met by Yakubu, who had risen well and directed his header just wide of the left hand upright.
The game had really started to liven up as the two teams committed to attack. But it was still Bolton which was on top and having the better of the chances. One such chance came on the 33rd Minute; the impressive Petrov firing in a low shot from just outside the area which was well saved by Robinson to his left.
Yet Bolton was more successful with the resulting corner. Miyaichi found Wheater after his in-swinging corner was missed by a melee of defenders, allowing the 25-year-old to add to his goal tally by powering a header past Robinson into the centre of the net.
As the whistle went for halftime, Bolton was well worth its lead and was looking particularly dangerous down the flanks after a fairly nondescript opening half hour. Blackburn on the other hand had defended poorly and was particularly struggling to deal with set-pieces.
The second half started much like the end of the first, and on the 47th minute Miyaichi cut in from the right and proceeded on a mazy run towards the Blackburn area only for him to fire a shot wildly over the bar.
Just a minute later, some fantastic wing play by Petrov saw him maraud down the left and put in a perfect cross for David Ngog. However, the frenchman was unable to adjust his body and only managed to direct the resulting header over the bar when he probably should have hit the target.
Yet against the run of play, Blackburn halved the deficit on the 55th minute after a corner from the right was met by N’Zonzi, who beat his marker at the near post and managed to flick a header past a flailing Adam Bogdan.
But it seemed Bolton was unnerved by the goal and it should have scored a third just two minutes later. The impressive Miyaichi managed to pick out Mark Davies with a floated cross from the right, but he headed glaringly wide of the target from eight yards out.
Bolton continued to pile on the pressure and in the 66th minute Martin Petrov sliced horribly wide with his weaker foot after Mark Davies beat the left fullback and squared the ball to the Bulgarian.
Ivan Klasnic came on for David Ngog as Bolton searched for another goal to establish their lead, but it was Blackburn which threatened next. A low ball into the box from Hoilett found Yakubu bravely sliding in in under pressure, but he steered the ball wide of the right-hand upright.
Despite some late pressure from the Blackburn frontline, including a snatched header by Yakubu on the 89th minute, Bolton defended manfully and were able to see out the victory.