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Match Report: Birmingham City 1-2 Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers came into the Saturday lunchtime kick-off still looking for their first league win of the season. St Andrews is a stadium of recent happy memories for Bolton and it was hoped it was the ideal venue to get their season finally up and running. All three of Bolton Wanderers short-term loan signings started the game including Neil Danns, deployed in behind lone-striker Jermaine Beckford. Both teams lined up in the currently fashionable 4-2-3-1 formation.

Danns Seals it
Danns Seals it
Matthew Lewis

Bolton looked industrious from the off and enjoyed the better of the early exchanges. Birmingham looked keener to get the ball down and take the game to Bolton but were being let down by their own faltering passing. Bolton, on the other hand were far more direct and looked to get the ball to on loan Millwall winger, Liam Feeney, as often as possible.

It was in this fashion that Bolton took an early lead, a long clearance from Medo Kamara in defence, was miss-calculated by Birmingham City defender, Dan Burn, and Jermaine Beckford raced through to score his first goal of the league season. After just 12 minutes, Bolton, in their infrared away kit, were 1-0 ahead.

Bolton's whole approach to this game seemed very different. The centre-backs were clearing their lines at every opportunity, something I have not seen at Bolton for sometime. The full-backs were also much more defensively set, getting forward far less frequently. The focus was on getting forward quickly, with either a ball over the top for Beckford to chase or through the impressive Liam Feeney to get his crosses in.

The first half continued in this fashion for it's remainder with only a couple of flashpoints. Firstly former-Wanderer Paul Robinson, surprisingly operated at central defence, got away with a nasty challenge on Beckford with referee, David Coote, extraordinarily choosing to neither give a foul or indeed book Beckford for diving.

Birmingham had their best effort on goal just before half time with Callum Reilly bringing a good left handed save out of Adam Bogdan with the Hungarian Goalkeeper quickly getting to his feet to clear his lines. It gave the 13,300 Birmingham fans inside St Andrews some real hope they could turn this game in their fortune. For Bolton, it was a case of keep working hard and take the opportunity to counter whenever it presented itself.

Birmingham started the second half a little brighter than they did the first, with Andy Shinnie glancing a Chris Burke cross as well as Bolton central defender Matt Mills booked for a cynical take down of the advancing, highly rated, Manchester United loanee, Jesse Lingard.

Birmingham City needed something different and they turned to someone who could provide a different approach, Nikola Zigic who entered the fray along with former Huddersfield Town forward Lee Novak. Bolton now had to ensure they did not provide Birmingham with opportunities to cross to the imposing Zigic.

It was becoming clear that Bolton were in need of second goal and were continuing to have success through Feeney on the right hand side with fellow loan signing Kevin McNaughton supporting when required. After a smart passage of play from Bolton, Feeney found Beckford with a delightful cross and the Jamaican International could only head on to the crossbar with Birmingham City Goalkeeper Darren Randolph beaten.

Bolton did not have to wait long for however for a Feeney cross to provide them with a crucial second goal. Feeney crossed in and, after a mistake from Randolph, Neil Danns was on hand to capitalise and score his first Bolton goal. A first win of the league season was now in sight for Dougie Freedman and his hard-working Bolton side. The Trotters had to remain mindful of the threat Zigic posed' however.

Matt Mills seemed undeterred by this threat and appeared to make it his business to give Birmingham as many crossing opportunities as possible with reckless fouls in the Bolton defensive third. This would prove costly as Nikola Zigic predictably nodded home not five minutes after the Bolton second and Wanderers had to react.

Freedman's somewhat predictable reaction was to introduce the Bolton's towering defender Zat Knight to counter balance the Zigic threat. Freedman was quite shrewd in how he deployed Knight, as instead of asking Knight to man-mark Zigic, he simply deployed as the centre-piece in a back 5, deterring Zigic from entering central areas and creating a vacuum in the Birmingham forward line.

Bolton held firm with the midfield four, adding to the resilience. With two minutes left on the clock, Bolton could count themselves a little fortunate as Reilly struck a volley which hit Liam Feeney's raised hands. Referee, Coote, chose not to give the penalty which left Birmingham manager Lee Clark frustrated.

Bolton then saw out the four minutes of added time to seal their first league win of the season to the clear delight of Wanderers players and the travelling 375 fans.