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Match report: Bolton Wanderers v Blackburn Rovers

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Neil Lennon's golden oldie strikeforce combined to inspire Wanderers to an exciting Boxing Day victory over local rivals Blackburn Rovers.

Eidur Gudjohnsen setup Emile Heskey's debut goal for Bolton on Boxing Day
Eidur Gudjohnsen setup Emile Heskey's debut goal for Bolton on Boxing Day
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Emile Heskey and Eidur Gudjohnsen may well be the Championship's oldest and most-capped strikeforce, but the pair combined to deadly effect as they led Bolton to victory over Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day.

Heskey, capped 63 times by England, came on at half-time to add much needed strength to the Bolton forward line and marked his return to English football with a goal set up superbly by his fellow 36-year-old teammate. The goal proved the changing point in a game in which the visitors wasted a host of chances, and was soon followed by Darren Pratley's second winning goal in consecutive Fridays.

Neil Lennon showed faith in the side that defeated Millwall one week ago, beginning with Rob Hall operating in the centre forward role, with Gudjohnsen and Chung-Yong Lee roaming behind him and the impressive Liam Feeney playing from the left.

But the first-half was largely bossed by the visitors, as Blackburn created and spurned chance after chance. Indeed Rovers should have been ahead within a minute when Jordan Rhodes headed the ball against the post. Rovers were inspired by their positive start and piled the pressure onto the hosts, but found goalkeeper Andy Lonergan once again in inspired form - firstly diving to deny Tom Cairney before pulling off a brilliant one-handed stop from Ben Marshall, who should have scored when sent through one-on-one.

Wanderers responded and should have found themselves a goal ahead when Rob Hall's cross from the right wing found Gudjohnsen at the back post, but the Icelandic forward side footed a volley narrowly wide from close distance. The home fans sensed Wanderers were gaining control of the game, but soon enough Blackburn should have taken the lead again as Marshall fed Rhodes who unusually missed the target when everyone inside the ground expected the net to bulge.

But the hosts' relief was short-lived as Blackburn took a deserved lead four minutes before half-time. A long ball towards Rhodes bounced through Wanderers' high defensive line and somehow found Joshua King well beyond the defence and, as the home fans waited for the offside flag, the Norwegian forward galloped towards goal, rounded Lonergan and coolly slotted home.

Wanderers had a couple of half chances before the break, and Liam Feeney's deep cross had goalkeeper Jason Steele flummoxed before bouncing off the bar, but Rovers went in at the break probably disappointed to only be one goal ahead. The hosts were clearly lacking up front, in the absence of Craig Davies, and Lennon took action by throwing on Heskey for his debut at half-time.

The big man made an immediate impact, chasing a through-ball down the right flank and delivering a low cross that Feeney could only steer into the side netting. His entrance gave Bolton much needed presence up top, finally giving Blackburn's centre backs something to think about, and even if he wasn't winning headers at least he was preventing the visitors from winning every ball.

But more was to come from Heskey, and he marked his debut in the best way possible just before the hour mark. Gudjohnsen provided a moment of pure class as he passed across the box to leave Heskey a tap in that sent the packed Macron Stadium crowd wild.

Lee could and perhaps should have given Bolton the lead a minute later, when his shot from the edge of the area lacked composure and was blocked on the line. But Wanderers continued to push and it paid off as Dorian Dervite rose to head a cross down into the path of Pratley, who steered home from close range for his second goal in a week.

Blackburn responded and could easily have found themselves on level terms with the goalmouth scramble of all goalmouth scrambles. Lonergan should have punched a free-kick clear but his attempt to catch the ball saw him drop it into a Blackburn player's path, a shot was cleared off the line by Matt Mills before mayhem ensued, a post was hit and the entire stadium breathed a sigh of relief as the ball finally bounced wide.

The visitors were then unfortunate not to find themselves on level terms when Mills stumbled in the box and comically attempted to head the ball on the ground but only succeeded in passing it straight to Rhodes who tucked the ball home - only for it to be ruled out for a foul on Mills, which was difficult to spot on first viewing.

Wanderers fought hard for this victory, and put in a performance that typifies the approach Lennon has instilled in the side. Under the previous management Bolton would have rolled over and died and lost this match by three or four goals, but Lennon has come in and revitalised the players, got them playing for each other and breathed confidence into the side. There were standout performances from Gudjohnsen - who provided moments of world-class vision and creativity, and exuded confidence on the ball - Josh Vela, who again impressed at right-back, Feeney, who was a constant threat down the left, and of course Heskey, who put himself about and showed he has something to offer at this level just hours after signing for the club.

The kick-off of the busy Christmas period has certainly given Wanderers fans something to cheer. The side are now unbeaten in eight matches, sit just nine points away from the play-offs and, just as importantly, have now won their last five matches against Blackburn - whose fans, incidentally, disgracefully threw a flare up into a box after Bolton's second goal.