Fowler finds form to end
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Dan Rookwood at the Reebok Stadium for Get Your Kits Out
Saturday February 21, 2004
A Manchester City victory? Well it has to happen once in a blue moon. But although Kevin Keegan put an end to his team's hobbling run of 14 league games without a victory, the speculation over his job sadly continues, but only in the media, not amongst City supporters.
For Bolton manager Sam Allardyce, the man being tipped to take over at City should Keegan lose the Premiership foothold provided by this precious victory, there is a greater drought to address.
A win against Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup final a week today would bring Bolton their first trophy in 46 years.
'We had one eye on the final,' admitted Allardyce. 'Or at least I hope we did - there's no other excuse for coming up with a performance like that. Next week we need to play to our best and try to win that cup.'
But some of the club's most loyal supporters will not be able to see it. Bolton tried to award each of their 17,500 season ticket holders two tickets to the final, despite only being allocated 30,000 seats.
City's concerns are more desperate, as they teeter on the brink of a relegation dogfight with tough games against Chelsea and Manchester United looming.
The pressure on Keegan has been intense in recent weeks. Happily for him, Robbie Fowler was able to relieve some of it yesterday, repaying his manager's faith in him with a first-half double and a hand in the crucial third goal.
'It'll make a change from the headlines being about me getting the sack,' said Keegan. 'There will be some blank [newspaper] pages this week. Robbie is still a world-class player, I think he's worked harder in the last two months than he has worked in his life.'
Fowler's all-round contribution was superb, and he at last seems to be rediscovering some of his form of old.
However, it was Bolton who had the best of the early exchanges. 'We had the chances to seal this game in the first 20 minutes,' moaned Allardyce.
Youri Djorkaeff's opportunistic volley early on brought a smart save from David James. Then Simon Charlton hit the bar after Kevin Davies had made a nuisance of himself on the penalty spot.
A Bolton goal was coming, and in the end it was Kevin Nolan who got it, thrashing the loose ball fiercely past James to top Bolton's scoring charts with his seventh of the season.
It was not long before City hit back. First, Fowler ghosted into a crowded penalty area and headed the ball powerfully past Jussi Jaaskelainen direct from a Michael Tarnet corner. Then, four minutes later, he latched on to a misjudged goal-kick from James, and larruped the ball emphatically home on the half-volley from 15 yards.
Within five minutes of the restart, it was three. Fowler laid the ball off to his best friend McManaman whose scuffed effort was turned into his own net by Charlton. And that was that.
No blue moans for Keegan this week, for once - just Blue Mooooooooon.