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Press article:

Just the job for smooth Solano - 05/03/2006

Just the job for smooth Solano
   Graeme Souness
   Sam Allardyce
   Glenn Roeder
   Bolton Wanderers
   Newcastle United

NOT EVEN one of the men tipped to become their next manager could orchestrate an end to the remarkable renaissance of Newcastle yesterday. In another accomplished performance by the side who still seek a replacement for Graeme Souness, goals by Nolberto Solano, Alan Shearer and Shola Ameobi denied Sam Allardyce the chance to make his case.

If, as the Bolton manager claims, Newcastle’s chairman, Freddy Shepherd, has not been in touch about the vacancy at St James’ Park, this was a priceless chance to make an impression, but his first defeat in eight league matches amounted to a flunked interview. Only a late goal by Kevin Davies offered him any consolation.

Allardyce claimed his goalkeeper should have prevented the first two goals, and regretted that his team only started to play when they were three down, all of which was to underestimate the work of an increasingly confident Newcastle side. Driven by the thunderous presence in midfield of Scott Parker, as well as Emre’s blend of artistry and aggression, the home side were two up at half-time, and never looked likely to throw it away.

No wonder their long-suffering supporters were chanting Glenn Roeder’s name at the end. The caretaker manager is unbeaten during his six matches at the helm, five of which have been won. His team are now just three points behind Bolton, who retain Champions League aspirations.

“Even the injured players are happy,” said Roeder, referring to Michael Owen, Kieron Dyer, Steven Taylor, Titus Bramble and Stephen Carr, the long list of absentees that was so often an excuse for Souness. If their next three matches — against Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea — will be more demanding than any they have faced recently, at least they have confidence on their side.

However high his stock, it quickly became clear Allardyce would not be indulged. By the time Emre had sliced a spinning volley at the target, and Jussi Jaaskelainen had helped it on to the post with a faint touch, Bolton’s resources already had been tested. Jay-Jay Okocha had limped off to be replaced by Hidetoshi Nakata, who as it turned out wasn’t a bad substitute. When his searching cross to the far post was nodded back by Gary Speed, a downward shot by the advancing Kevin Nolan deflected against Robbie Elliott and spun off the post.

Newcastle, though, were the more purposeful of the two sides. When Charles N’Zogbia was released down the left, his cutback fell perfectly for Ameobi, but the striker managed only a feeble swipe at thin air.

Any embarrassment was forgotten when Newcastle took the lead. Awarded a free kick five yards outside the penalty box, the angle determined that it would be taken by Solano. With a contact that seemed to kiss the ball with his right instep, he curved a dipping shot between goalkeeper and post. Roeder was without his assistant Shearer, who returned to the team after a three-match injury absence. The striker was able to make a more telling contribution on the pitch, where he doubled his team’s lead just before half-time.

N’Zogbia was the provider once again, but when his captain rose to return a header across the six-yard area, even he was not counting on the assistance of Jaaskelainen. The Bolton goalkeeper pawed at the dropping ball but succeeded only in helping it into his net.

The urgency of Bolton’s predicament prompted Allardyce to make a radical change at half-time. The introduction up front of Henrik Pedersen, allied to the withdrawal of Bruno N’Gotty, meant Nolan was withdrawn to midfield, and Abdoulaye Faye to central defence.

Their response was spirited, but Newcastle were equally aggressive, holding firm long enough to go in search of a third. When Emre’s shot lacked power and direction, the ball fell to Ameobi six yards out. The striker had time to take a touch before slamming the ball over the line.

Roeder’s only frustration would be that his team did not consolidate their advantage. Three minutes later, Radhi Jaidi rose at the back post to set up Davies, who slid in to convert from close range. Nolan also had the ball in the net, only for the referee to spot a handball offence, but for Bolton, the damage had already been done.

Star Man: Emre (Newcastle)

Newcastle: Given 7, Ramage 6, Boumsong 6, Elliott 6, Babayaro 6, Solano 7, Parker 7, Emre 8 (Bowyer 82min, 4), N’Zogbia 7, Shearer 7, Ameobi 6 (Luque 83min, 4)

Bolton: Jaaskelainen 6, O’Brien 6, Jaidi 6, N’Gotty 5 (Pedersen h-t, 6), Gardner 6, Okocha 4 (Nakata 17min, 7), Faye 7, Speed 6, Giannakopoulos 6, Davies 7, Nolan 7

Scorers: Newcastle: Solano 34, Shearer 45, Ameobi 70

Bolton: Davies 72

The Times

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