Bolton Wanderers 4-2 Birmingham City
Cunningham 12 (OG), Clemence 46 (OG), Djorkaeff 83, Facey 86 Savage 44, Morrison 60
Jaaskelainen, N'Gotty, Campo, Bergsson, Charlton, Gardner, Frandsen, Okocha, Mendy, Pedersen, Djorkaeff
Bennett, Kenna, Cunningham, Upson, Clapham, Devlin, Savage, Clemence, Lazaridis, Dugarry, Morrison
Barness, Tofting, Facey (Pedersen 81), Nolan, Poole
John (Dugarry 67), Kirovsky (Devlin 73), Johnson, Swiercsewski, Vaesen
Yellow : Frandsen 60, Gardner 23
Yellow : Morrison 18, Dugarry 52
Cunningham 's Goal
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Clemence's Goal
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Youri Djorkaeff's Goal
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Delroy Facey's Goal
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Another cracker at the Reebok

I have to say, I've seen some of the worst games of football in a long time at the Reebok this season. However, between this and the Newcastle game, I've also seen some of the best.

Bolton paraded their three new signings on the pitch before the game but unfortunately none were available for selection. With the departure of Ricketts that left Bolton's striking options severly limited. In the end Pedersen played up front with Djorakeff behind. Okocha, Gardner and Frandsen played 'midfield' with Campo as defensive cover. The game got off to a perfect start on 12 minutes when Gardner's low cross into the box was turned into his own net by Cunningham, under no pressure at all. Steve Bruce had introduced three new signings at the same time - Clemence, Upson and Clapham - and it looked like the teams organisation was suffering.

However Bolton were far from being the dominant team. In fact, Birmingham had almost constant pressure on the Wanderers defense for the second quarter of the game, with Dugarry an eyecathing combination of physical presence and control. He himself had two chances to score and was involved with most of Birmingham's best play. It was in the end fair reward that his powerful run into the Bolton area allowed him to release Lazaridis whose cross was turned in by Robbie Savage at close range. An equaliser just on half time and scored by the player Bolton fans hate more than virtually any other. How deflated we all were as we filed down out of the cold at half time.

Still, nothing like another goal to cheer you up and we got one almost immediately the second half started. Charlton's pass was knocked down by Pedersen into Djorkaeff's path. Youri turned cleverly in the area and his deft chip was just enough to squeeze past Bennetts lunge, Pedersen had continued his run and tangled with Clemence on the line as the ball rolled over into the goal. Officially the goal was given as an own goal by Clemence, but I defy anyone to actually know for certain who touched it last. Despite going behind again, Birmingham weren't about to let go of the game yet. Morrison was giving the Bolton defense problems although he couldn't find a way past the offside trap and bounced a header off the top of the Bolton bar from Lazaridis's cross. Then after a corner was badly cleared, Clemence chipped the ball back over the advancing Bolton line and Morrison seized his chance to race onto the ball and cooly slot it past Jaaskelainen, who had held to his goal line. This was possibly a mistake, although given the wild two footed challenge by Morrison that had greeted him the first time he had come out, maybe he wasn't feeling quite foolhardy enough to risk a serious injury by trying it again. After that the game deteriorated somewhat, with both sides maybe beginning to fear a loss more than they wished for a win. Step forward Man of the Match JayJay Okocha. The Nigerian dragged Bolton out of their own half virtually single handed. Running with the ball, keeping possession and passing intelligently, he built a base on which Bolton overcame their nerves to impose themselves on the game. It bears conparison with the famous example of David Beckham's performance for England at OId Trafford in terms of pulling a team around him and forcing the game their way. His run set up the third goal. As Birmingham backpeddled and Bolton charged forward, his pass into the box missed Mendy's run but fell into the path of Djorkaeff, who possibly mishit the shot but it turned out perfectly as it rolled just inside the far post. Three minutes later the game was over and Okocha was the man to thank again. Picking up the ball from a quick throw by Jussi, Okocha surged forward over the centre line with Birminghamm's defense, who had come up for a corner, trailing behind. Thirty yards out he struck a low shot skimming past Bennet's dive. If it had gone in it would have been a clear goal of the season candidate but it bounced back off the left hand post. A cruel shame it didn't go in. But lucky for Delroy Facey, who had followed up into the box and managed to get to the rebound first to calmly place a shot into the net for his first Premiership goal. There was no coming back for Birmingham. They didn't give in but Bolton were playing with huge confidence and energy and weren't to be upset again.

While this was a game full of worthy performances on both sides - Mendy played with verve while Upson showed class enough to wonder why Wenger was mad enough to let him go and Morrison and Pedersen lead the line with all they had. Frandsen was quietly efficient in midfield in a way that binds a team together but hardly ever gets the credit it deserves. Both side's French playmakers illuminated the game with moments of great skill and perceptive passing. But the undoubted difference between the sides was Okocha. He was almost completely inmpossible to play against. Birmingham found it incredibly difficult to get the ball off him without fouling him, his control and passing allowed Bolton some confidence coming out of defense as he was always ready to take the ball and do something with it and when he ran at the Birmingham defense they simply didn't have a clue how to stop him. It was as impressive a performance as I have seen in a Bolton shirt for a very long time indeed.