Magpies add to Wanderers’ woes

The Magpies had taken only two points from their previous six games

while Bolton’s victory over Blackburn in midweek ended a run of

five straight defeats, and in the first half it appeared very much

a battle between two struggling sides. But the deadlock was broken

in the 69th minute when Ben Arfa netted his first goal in more than

a year and the prolific Ba doubled the lead soon after. Defensive

woes have been the problem for Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, who was

able to call on centre-back Mike Williamson for the first time

since he suffered an ankle injury in August. Yohan Cabaye was back

after suspension, while for Bolton Marcos Alonso and Gretar

Steinsson were unavailable so Paul Robinson and Dedryck Boyata came

in. If fans were hoping for a Boxing Day treat they certainly did

not get it in the first half as both sides struggled to string

passes together. There were only two chances of note, one for

either side, in almost identical circumstances. Newcastle dominated

the early stages and in the 14th minute Ryan Taylor drew a good

save from Jussi Jaaskelainen diving low to his left with a

free-kick after Fabrice Muamba had fouled Cabaye 25 yards out.

Bolton’s confidence levels did not seem to have been improved by

Tuesday’s win but they gradually came into the match and were close

to taking the lead six minutes before half-time. Cabaye was harshly

penalised for a nudge on Nigel Reo-Coker just outside the box and

Martin Petrov’s free-kick was heading for the bottom corner until

Tim Krul thrust out a hand. Leon Best had the final chance of the

half when he was picked out by Ryan Taylor’s corner but he could

manage only a glancing header and guided the ball well wide.

Bolton’s season was summed up by a sequence of play in the 55th

minute. First Robinson found Ngog with a good ball down the left

and Klasnic eventually picked up the striker’s cross-shot only to

trip himself up as he looked to get a shot away. At the other end,

Jaaskelainen blocked an effort from Gabriel Obertan before

Newcastle made the first substitution of the afternoon, Ben Arfa

coming on for Best. Bolton were certainly looking more of a threat

going forward and Petrov lashed an effort just wide of the far

post. But in the 69th minute they went behind as Newcastle at last

put together a move of real quality, ending with Taylor crossing

for Ben Arfa to crisply volley in only his second goal for the club

and his first since September 2010, shortly before he suffered a

broken leg against Manchester City. And two minutes later the game

was all but over as poor defending from Paul Robinson let in

Obertan down the right and his cross was clipped in by Ba despite

the best efforts of Gary Cahill. It was Ba’s 14th goal of the

season, and he almost added another moments later but this time

Jaaskelainen was quickly off his line to block, Taylor then fired a

free-kick well over the bar. Bolton boss Owen Coyle threw on

strikers Tuncay Sanli and Kevin Davies but it was already a lost

cause and even a consolation was beyond the Trotters. Boos rang out

at the final whistle, with the result meaning Bolton stay three

points from safety and now only one point above bottom side

Blackburn.