Date: 16th March 2008 at 8:02pm
Written by: baskerville

The talk over the last couple of days had been of Latics possible entry into the UEFA cup courtesy of the fair play rule.

After today`s performance by Mr Tanner our best hope for a European adventure is the pre season tour of Austria.

Latics kept the same starting line up as had kept clean sheets on the previous two games against Man City and Arsenal with Koumas once again preferred to Kilbane on the left wing.

Whether we have now seen the last performance of Koumas in a Latics shirt is open to question as a reckless tackle in only the third minute of the game resulted in a straight red card leaving Latics with the onerous tasks of playing the rest of the game with ten men.

Steve Bruce was livid with the decision but reports from fans in the West stand echoed my own East stand opinion that it was the correct decision (probably the only one Mr Tanner got right all afternoon).

Latics chose to keep the same formation with King dropping back in to midfield when we were defending to support the industrious Brown and Palacios.

Brown gave a typical industrious committed performance getting into the Bolton midfield`s face literally in the case of Campo as they both eyeballed each other for what seemed like an eternity with Mr Tanner seemingly oblivious to what was going on.

Latics creativity was restricted to Melchiot and Valencia, Valencia once again proving what a bargain buy he is giving Gardener a torrid time, winning several corners at which Latics looked dangerous.

Bolton were strangely ineffective in the first half giving Heskey too much room and Emile had one of his best games of the season.

Latics had several chances to go in front one of the best falling to King who when presented with a cross which required only a good contact on the ball scuffed his shot straight at the Bolton keeper.

Two minutes before the goal Scharner placed a bullet header towards the gaol which was cleared off the line, whether it crossed the line is debateable but it was just one in a line of controversies in the game

The goal when it came was once again down to Latics` best two attacking players Melchiot and Valencia.

Valencia won a throw in which Melchiot put at the feet of Heskey who lashed the ball past the Bolton keeper for his first goal since August.

The teams went off to a mixture of vocal responses, cheers for the tremendous first half performance and boo for the referee fro his inconsistent decisions.

Bolton started the second half with a more focussed game plan of trying to stretch Latics out wide and when that failed they punted the ball up field in the hope that Davies et al would be able to make the extra man count.

On several occasions they came close the best chance falling to Davies who seemed certain to score but for a superb save at his feet by Kirkland.

Kirkland was in imperious form all afternoon and on the odd occasions that he was beaten from set pieces he was saved first by Brown (Bolton fans screamed for handball but very little appeals from the team) and buy Edman clearing off the line.

Latics took the ineffective King off once again replacing him with Kilbane and switching to a 4-4-1 formation which meant defending deep and attempting to catch Bolton on the break was the game plan for the rest of the afternoon.

On occasion it nearly worked both Valencia and Palacios going close on t e break whilst once again Melchiot showed sublime skills more suited to an international centre forward rather than a right back.

The final whistle was greeted with euphoria from the Latics fans on a team performance built on grit, determination and team spirit and dismay form the Bolton fans who must have realised that their chances of escaping the drop are diminishing daily if they couldn`t beat ten men.

This was Latics` fourth consecutive game without conceding a goal and they have now garnered 8 points out of the last 12.

Player Ratings

Kirkland ?9
Pulled off a couple of world class saves. I hope someone send the tape of the game to Capello

His partnership with Valencia down the right hand side is really starting to bear fruit

Solid , dependable and a brilliant clearance of the line. One dummy in the second half hinted at hitherto unseen attacking skills also.

Given a hard workout by Davies, D`iouf and Razialk but held the line well as always.

Another good performance by the man who must be one of the best centre halves in the Premier League. Always looked dangerous at set pieces and was unlucky not to score.

Latics` most creative outlet, never stopped running all afternoon and tracked back well.

Koumas` dismissal put extra pressure on him and Palacios and he responded superbly. Titanic battle with Campo and emerged without a booking.

A more attacking performance than of late and some sterling work in defence

Whether it was a sending off or not it was a clumsy tackle which put the team under great pressure.

If the result had gone against us it could have cost us our Premier League life. With Killer and Taylor looking sharp when they came on, JK appears to have lost his starting position for the rest of the season.

Not showing any qualities to convince me that he is a Premier League quality player.

Got injured in the first 12 seconds and kept battling away and took his goal well. This will have done his confidence the world of good.

Showed his intelligence when he came on , will no doubt start in place of Koumas for the next three games barring injury.

looked fit, wasn`t on long enough to merit a score but was on long enough to pick up a booking from the inconsistent Mr Tanner

Manager Rating
Steve Bruce?.8.5

Has turned the team around. Deserves every bit of his salary.

Ref Watch
Mr Tanner?..4

Ineffective and inconsistent, managed to annoy both sets of fans in equal measure