Club Focus – Bolton Wanderers – Manchester City defeat ends Wanderers’ run but spirits remain intact at the Reebok

With 16 games of the 2010/11 Premier League already passed, one team who will be delighted with their start is Bolton Wanderers. The 1-0 defeat to Manchester City on a chilly Saturday afternoon was only Bolton’s third in the league, a fine run which has seen the Trotters rise to 6th position in the table.

Carlos Tevez’s 4th minute strike was enough to see off Owen Coyle’s dogged side in a match City dominated possession but were unable to capitalise in the final third. The fact that Roberto Mancini’s team were left hanging on at the end of the match says as much about City’s lack of cutting edge at Eastlands as it does about Bolton’s never say die attitude and attractive attacking prowess under Coyle.

Despite defeat, spirits are high within the Bolton camp. On Friday, Coyle and his talismanic striker, Johan Elmander, received the Manager and Player of the Month awards respectively. Both awards are fully justified and help to portray the excellent work put in by Coyle, his staff and his team in November and indeed for the previous few months. Criticised at length by many for their long ball style under previous managers Sam Allardyce and Gary Megson, Wanderers are currently playing some attractive football – and getting good results to boot.

In the last home match against newly promoted Blackpool, Coyle watched his side snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat – Mark Davies scored an 89th minute equaliser following some sumptuous build-up play and Coyle was adamant that his side would not lose the match without a fight. Coyle said: “I was prepared to lose three or four-nil to get back into the game,” a response which typifies Coyle’s attack minded philosophy at the Reebok Stadium, a philosophy which is paying dividends.

Wanderers are able to mix and match their style of football, combining some slick passing moves with a long ball game that has benefited players such as Stuart Holden, Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander. The Swede in particular is finally showing why Bolton splashed over £8m on him from Toulouse in France. After a torrid first season at the Reebok, in which he managed only 5 goals, Elmander has been crucial for the Trotters this term, bagging 8 Premier League goals.

Now, with a capable holding midfield player in Fabrice Muamba and a solid central defensive pairing of Zat Knight and Gary Cahill things are looking extremely bright for the remainder of the season and, more pressingly, the heavy Christmas programme. Coyle will be urging his team to maintain their good run of form when they welcome Blackburn Rovers next weekend. Victory then and Wanderers can seriously think about pushing for a coveted European spot, an achievement that few would have predicted at the start of the season.

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