Memorable Match: Bolton Wanderers v Blackburn Rovers

Jamie McDonald

Three and a bit years ago, we faced Blackburn at the Reebok

Sunday, 12 December 2010, and a Premier League clash between Bolton Wanderers and neighbours Blackburn Rovers proved to be a match for the ages.

Then-Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce endured a miserable return to the club he managed for eight years between 1999 and 2007, with his Blackburn charges remaining 13th in the Premier League, only five points above the relegation zone. Allardyce had experienced a mixed start to life in the Ewood Park hotseat but his team arrived fresh from a 3-0 victory over Wolves and got off to a lively start.

Bolton, under manager Owen Coyle, had made the Reebok Stadium something of a fortress, with Coyle's men losing only one of their nine home games and turning heads with an attractive brand of football.

Coyle's Bolton side was barely recognisable from the one Big Sam led, yet one similarity was that they were on course for a top-eight finish, which the 56-year-old Allardyce achieved four seasons running prior to his departure.

At the start of the game, the home side enjoyed plenty of early possession, though Blackburn looked dangerous on the counter-attack and carved out the first real chance as Jason Roberts sneaked ahead of his marker to glance former Bolton fan favourite El-Hadji Diouf's cross narrowly wide. At the other end Bolton began pressing hard for the opener and Martin Petrov's low cross flashed through the six-yard box and just evaded record signing Johan Elmander.

Former Manchester City man Petrov then stepped in from the left and fired wide following a slick break-away from a Blackburn corner, but the hosts could not capitalise on their superiority and Blackburn seemed to grow in confidence. Goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen then plucked Chris Samba's flicked header from under his crossbar and Roberts was released by American midfielder Jermaine Jones and brought down by Zat Knight, who might have been shown a red card if team-mate Gary Cahill had not been in close proximity.

Jaaskelainen then saved well from a Morten Gamst Pedersen free-kick, with Gael Givet miscuing the rebound, and Rovers wanted a penalty when Martin Olsson was hauled over by Stuart Holden. There was little spike in this Lancashire derby until Mark Davies was given his marching orders for a second yellow card having led with his arm during an aerial challenge against Jones.

Coyle immediately replaced Chung-Yong Lee with Fabrice Muamba in order to solidify the Bolton midfield in light of Davies' dismissal, with Allardyce responding by replacing Martin Olsson with on-loan Manchester United striker Mame Biram Diouf as Allardyce went for all-out attack.

A Pedersen free-kick was well saved and Kevin Davies cleared off the goal line amid the resultant melee, before a Mame Biram Diouf header appeared to strike Knight's hand and Givet hooked over. Despite this pressure, it was Bolton who struck first blood, Muamba picked up a deflected Ryan Nelsen clearance and struck a low shot beyond goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

After the goal, Blackburn set about redressing the balance and laid siege to their opponents' goal, the Bolton defence repelling everything thrown at them until Roberts played in Mame Biram Diouf and the Senegalese striker, on loan from Manchester United, looped the ball over Jaaskelainen via a deflection.

Now for the good bit.

Sam Allardyce celebrated as if his side had claimed all three points - but, it turned out, he celebrated too soon. Straight from the kick-off, defender Sam Ricketts played a long ball forward for Kevin Davies to nod into the path of Holden. The American, back from two games out with a thigh injury, controlled neatly before beating Robinson with an outstanding finish from 20 yards to send the home crowd into raptures.

Despite Blackburn's possession and control of the second half, it was Coyle's men who would have the final word. The victory saw them leapfrog Tottenham Hotspur into a Europa League place on goal difference, although Spurs reclaimed that spot with a draw against Chelsea later on Sunday.

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