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Posted on 19 August 2006  - 12:00

Two goals in four first half minutes consigned us to defeat on the opening day of the season against Bolton Wanderers.

Two goals in four first half minutes consigned us to defeat on the opening day of the season against Bolton Wanderers.

A Kevin Davies header and a speculative long-range drive from Ivan Campo inflicted the damage from which the boys were unable to recover from at the Reebok Stadium - not a lucky venue for us by any means. We have yet to win at the arena in Premiership combat.

Martin handed Premiership debuts to our trio of summer signings - Assou-Ekotto, Zokora and Berbatov - on what was a damp and dull early evening in the North West. Far from the sunshine and shirt sleeves normally associated with day one of a new campaign...

Lee Young-Pyo was assigned to operate from the right back position to accomodate Assou-Ekotto - potentially offering a greater balance with the South Korean being right-footed.

With the stadium submerged in smoke from the team entrance fireworks, the boys came together for the now customary huddle before referee Mr Dowd got our 2006-07 season underway.

There was something of a diamond shape to the midfield from kick-off, with Zokora holding behind Jermaine Jenas to the right and Edgar Davids to the left. Aaron Lennon appeared to have been given licence to roam behind or wide of Berbatov and Jermain Defoe.

The set piece threat emerged when a Gary Speed corner just cleared the head of Ricardo Vaz Te. The next one we did not get away on nine minutes when Speed again teased the ball into the six yard box and Davies rose seemingly unchallenged to plant his header past Paul Robinson. The reason he was unchallenged - as replays demonstrated - was because Vaz Te had hold of Calum Davenport and prevented him from obstructing what was a clear sight of goal.

The pain was doubled on 13 minutes after both Davenport and then Jenas failed to get much distance on their attempted clearances. You wouldn't have imagined there was any significant danger at that point but the ball rolled to Campo and the Spaniard tried his luck from maybe 35-plus yards and his effort swerved and skidded low past Robinson and into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

There was shock and silence from the away end and stunned joy from the not heavily populated home areas. Bolton were playing the percentage game and pressing the boys back from set pieces and throw-ins, their 4-3-3 formation also managing to stifle attacking thrusts of our own.

Jenas and Berbatov combined to present Defoe with our first real opening on 24 minutes when the little England striker extended Jaaskelainen to his left, before a Zokora free-kick caused momentary panic at the half-hour mark. Bolton nearly made it three though when Speed forced Robinson into top corner action ten minutes before the break.

Lennon came very close to stretching the home defence to breaking point shortly after the interval, but was stopped in his tracks while in the process of applying decisive boot to ball. Kevin Nolan missed a gilt-edged chance at the other end when Michael Dawson failed to clear his lines, with the midfielder sidefooting wide with the goal at his mercy.

It was high time for a Keane intervention and Robbie was introduced in place of Zokora with 30 minutes left on the clock. He almost immediately injected some sizzle into our attack with a threaded ball through to Berbatov, who could not quite round Jaaskelainen when in on goal.

Robinson brilliantly prevented a third goal against on 65 minutes when El Hadji Diouf connected with a header right in front of the posts after the ball clipped off the back of Davenport's head. Somehow Robbo managed to shovel the ball around his right hand upright.

Tom Huddlestone took to the pitch on 75 minutes with Lee being withdrawn. Jenas switched to right back and the 19-year-old joining Davids in the heart of midfield.

The changes did not have the desired effect and the team will have to bounce back from day one defeat when Sheffield United arrive at the Lane on Tuesday evening.