One for Benno to forget

Last updated : 23 October 2003 By Brian Cartlidge

Here's how Singing The Blues match reporter BluenoseRon saw the game:

The Blues goalkeeper had a nightmare 90 minutes - his worst display ever in a Blues shirt - and was at fault for all four goals that the home side scored.

Despite Robbie Savage and Clinton Morrison both netting equalisers at points in the game, Bolton notched their first win in 8 games with two late goals.

Steve Bruce gave a debut to Matthew Upson at the heart of the Blues defence alongside fit-again Kenny Cunningham. Aliou Cisse's injury meant Stephen Clemence made his second appearance alongside Savage in midfield, with Paul Devlin and Stan Lazaridis playing wide and supplying Christophe Dugarry and Morrison up front.

The game never really got going until the first of Blues defensive howlers on 12 minutes. A tame Ricardo Gardner cross was posing no danger whatsoever when Cunningham slid in ahead of Bennett and turned the ball into his own net. A decent goalkeeper would have deafened the defender with a call for the ball, or just barged him out of the way himself. Bennett did neither, in his typical quiet manner, and Blues were 1-0 down.

Blues battled their way back into the game for the rest of the half, with Dugarry's influence growing by the minute. Following a great run and neat one-two with Morrison, the Frenchman blazed over, before playing in Jeff Kenna whose cross/shot evaded both Lazaridis in the middle and the far post - Kenna should really have done better.

Blues did get their reward, however, just moments before half-time. Dugarry ran fully 40 yards with the ball, evading challenges as if they weren't there, before turning and playing a through ball to Lazaridis, who drove the ball across the face of the goal for Savage to tap home from 2 yards out. The Welshman is undoubtedly Bolton fans most-hated opponent, and he took obvious joy in scoring his second goal in a Blues shirt - and his second this season against Sam Allardyce's men.

It was the perfect time to score, just before half-time. However, the perfect time to concede was most definitely not within a minute of the re-start. Youri Djorkaef twisted and turned inside the Blues area, and hit a weakly struck shot from about 6 yards, chest-height, at Bennett, who managed to let the ball through his grasp. Henrik Pedersen and Clemence both scrambled desperately for the ball for very different reasons, but eventually it was bundled in off the post, with Clemence having the last touch. Blues had scored three goals now, and were 2-1 down.

Spirits weren't dampened yet though, and Blues went in search of a second equaliser - Morrison hitting the bar with a header from a Lazaridis cross which bore many similarities to his second strike at Anfield in September. Indeed, it was the Irish international striker who netted Blues second. Following a cleared corner, as the home defence came out, Clemence lobbed a delightful ball over the top into the path of Morrison who finished well past Jussi Jaaskelinen.

At 2-2 now, Blues were looking the stronger team, and pushing for an away victory. This changed, however, when Dugarry was taken off and replaced with Stern John. With the main influence taken out of the side, Blues appeared happy to settle for a decent enough point.

With seven minutes remaining, Cunningham - under pressure - cushioned a backpass back to Bennett. The 'keeper opted rather than to play the ball wide back to Cunningham, or wide to Jamie Clapham, to try and blast it upfield as far as he could, as he is prone to doing. His first time kick was awful, and landed at the feet of JayJay Okocha, who played the ball to Djorkaef in acres of space, who in turn hit a mishit effort past the despairing dive of the appalling Bennett.

As if this wasn't enough, 3 minutes later Bennett allowed a long-range Okocha effort to somehow go under his arms, hit the post and bounce out to former Huddersfield striker Delroy Facey who calmly slotted the ball back past the now distraught Bennett. The former Peterborough stopper just sat with his head in his hands, no doubt wanting the ground to open up and swallow him.

Whilst a goalkeepers errors will always be more highlighted than, say, a strikers, this was a horror showing by Bennett. The fact is, he's not good enough for the Premiership. Nico Vaesen had done no wrong, and had actually had a fair season prior to being dropped at Ewood Park a fortnight ago. Now Bruce has to hold his hands up, admit he's made a rare managerial error (in his time at St Andrews, at least) and restore Vaesen to the team. I have no doubt that had Vaesen played today, Blues would have conceded only two goals maximum - maybe even less.

After such a bitterly disappointing result that sees Blues well and truly embroiled in the relegation dogfight, it is difficult to take too many positives from the game. However, Matthew Upson was excellent on his debut, and Dugarry again looked in a different league to his team-mates. Possibly the most crucial thing to take from this game, though, is that now at least there is no question over who is Blues number one goalkeeper. Vaesen must be back in the team on Tuesday night when Manchester United come to town.

Bennett - Read the report...
Kenna - Adequate
Clapham - Not aggressive enough
Upson - Excellent
Cunningham - Didn't look right
Devlin - Poor
Lazaridis - Frustrating as usual, despite another assist
Clemence - In and out of the game - when he was in it, he looked very good
Savage - Reasonable
Morrison - A little better
Dugarry - A class above

John - Struggled
Kirovski - Never got into the game