Wheater double lifts Bolton
Defender's brace provides another get well message for Muamba
Last Updated: 24/03/12 7:43pm
David Wheater provided Fabrice Muamba with yet another get well message as his first-half brace secured victory for Bolton on an emotional afternoon against Blackburn.
Less than a week after the trauma of midfielder Muamba's cardiac arrest during the FA Cup clash at Tottenham, the Trotters claimed victory in their relegation showdown with Blackburn to move out of the bottom three and pull Steve Kean's men back into trouble.
The true importance of the game of football has been put into perspective in the past seven days, with the 23-year-old Muamba remaining in intensive care in the London Chest Hospital and the match at the Reebok Stadium was preceded by further touching tributes from players and fans from both clubs.
Owen Coyle's side, who only agreed to return to action after consulting with Muamba's family, took a deserved lead after 28 minutes against a lacklustre Rovers side when Martin Petrov's cross from the left was inadvertently flicked on by Steven Nzonzi for Wheater to pick his spot at the far post.
And the home side were two goals to the good in the 35th minute when Ryo Miyaichi's corner from the right was powered home beyond Paul Robinson by the former Middlesbrough central defender, who was given far too much space by the visiting defence.
Blackburn pulled themselves back into the contest early in the second period when Nzonzi was allowed a free run to the near post to head in one of Morten Gamst Pedersen's many dangerous long throws, but despite a frantic finish could not find a leveller.
Any fears Coyle had about the reaction of his players to the emotions of the day would have been dismissed by the positivity in the ground before kick-off.
From the moment a montage of the past week was played on the stadium's big screen through to the pre-match handshakes, loud applause and chants rang out in honour of Muamba, who remains in intensive care but whose situation is so much better than it might have been.
Bolton fed off the home crowd's enthusiasm, with Petrov a particular threat down the left.
The Bulgarian hit a blistering 25-yard drive that was beaten away by Robinson in the opening stages, while Trotters striker David Ngog was also causing a nuisance of himself.
But it was just as Bolton paused for breath after the early frenzy that they enjoyed a sizeable piece of luck. Television replays showed Wanderers defender Gretar Steinsson had clearly ended Junior Hoilett's charge into the box illegally, but referee Andre Marriner did not have the same view and waved play on.
One superb Tim Ream clearance later and Bolton found their stride again, and soon grabbed the goals the occasion demanded.
Petrov's cross provided the chance, his delivery inadvertently flicked on by Nzonzi for Wheater to head in at the far post for his first Premier League goal since August 2008.
Seven minutes later the towering centre-back was celebrating another.
This time the delivery came from Miyaichi's superb corner, which flew perfectly onto the head of the Bolton man who made no mistake with a thumping finish.
Defending crosses was clearly not a strength for Blackburn as within minutes of the restart Ngog rose to meet one from Petrov but flashed it over the bar.
Bolton also should have scored when Miyaichi picked Davies out from the right, but, unmarked and only six yards out, the midfielder glanced his header wide.
That would have been bad enough even if Blackburn had not already scored, but Nzonzi had found the net rather too easily after Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan failed to impose himself on a packed penalty area.
Bolton immediately looked to restore their two-goal cushion and a Petrov corner found Darren Pratley all on his own, only for the midfielder to miss the target.
It was the trigger for a sustained Blackburn assault on the Bolton goal, which almost brought them an equaliser as Yakubu bundled narrowly wide.
Bolton held out against the late onslaught, however, to claim a poignant win and three crucial points.
|Bolton Wanderers||Team Statistics||Blackburn Rovers|
|2||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||3|
|10||Shots off Target||6|
|60.1||1st Half Poss.||39.9|
|55.7||2nd Half Poss.||44.3|
Barclays Premier League
|15||West Bromwich Albion||15||15|
|17||West Ham United||15||13|
Bolton v Blackburn
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Owen Coyle believes his Bolton side should take inspiration from Fabrice Muamba's fight for life as they prepare to return to action this weekend.
Blackburn boss Steve Kean believes Fabrice Muamba's remarkable progress will enable Rovers and Bolton to focus more on their game.