Sunday, 25 March 2012

Wheater provides Muamba With Perfect Dose Of Medicine

David Wheater gave Fabrice Muamba a dose of medicine no doctor could offer by leading Bolton to a crucial win over fellow strugglers Blackburn.

The big defender thrived in the feelgood factor at the Reebok, scoring two first half goals as an emotional Bolton crowd sent a message of support to the midfielder.

Muamba must have been heartened by the way both sets of fans cheered for him, but this result probably did him more good as he battles to recover from the cardiac arrest that threatened his life.

It pushed Bolton out of the bottom three and drags neighbours Blackburn back into the dogfight.

Steve Kean's hopes of a third successive Rovers win for the first time since January 2008 were hit as Bolton rode the positive atmosphere, hanging on to win despite Steven Nzonzi pulling a goal back.

Fans were desperate to taste a rare Reebok victory from the moment they gathered outside to look at flowers and shirts plastered with messages of support for the midfielder.

Inside the sense of community was heightened by the Blackburn end starting up a chorus of ``Fabrice Muamba'' unprompted.

And a video showing the likes of Lionel Messi wearing t-shirts offering up prayers for the Bolton star touchingly summed up the wonderful sense of togetherness felt throughout football this week.

Before kick-off players from both sides led the applause as the Lower East Stand lifted cards to spell out their hero's name.

They knew this is the kind of game Muamba excels in. A local derby, survival on the line and points needed. The perfect recipe for his leggy ball-winning attributes to shine.

The big question was though, how would his team-mates fare in his absence? Would the trauma of the past week take its toll on their minds? Would the anguish play havoc with their bodies?

Initial signs were good. Martin Petrov hammered a shot at Paul Robinson that the keeper could only bat away. 

Their week from hell was clearly not weighing on Bolton's shoulders.

It took over 20 minutes before Blackburn managed to find a way into the Trotters penalty area. The nippy Junior Hoilett burst into the danger zone but went down too easily when challenged by Gretar Steinsson for referee Andre Marriner's liking.

Next, a ball in from Marcus Olsson had American Tim Ream at full stretch to stop Yakubu from netting and that intervention proved crucial. Within seconds Bolton were ahead.

Petrov regained possession after a corner was cleared and aimed a cross to the near post.

NZonzi was guarding that area, his touch only carried the ball to Wheater though and the big stopper planted his header home from close range to earn a 28th minute lead.

As chants of ``Muamba'' started up again, Darren Pratley headed just over and Robinson did well to touch away Petrov's shot.

That save led to the second. Wheater escaped Scott Dann's clutches and powered in a header from Rio Miyaichi's corner to net his second within seven minutes.

How Yakubu must have been wishing he had buried a headed chance moments before, from Marcus Olsson's cross.

But Rovers found themselves back in the hunt with Nzonzi prospering by getting across Wheater and Sam Ricketts to nod Morten Gamst Pedersen's throw-in past Bogdan.

Slack marking nearly cost the visitors dearly soon after when Miyaichi found Mark Davies alone in the area. The midfielder guided his header wide though to Robinson's relief.

Now it was time for Bolton's nerves to show. Yakubu came close to back-heeling a cross from Hoillet in at the front post and then with seconds ticking down he nodded a Pedersen cross over the top.

Bolton knew then the points were secure and their job, in such testing circumstances, had been completed.

A long, hard, dreadful week had ended with smiles on faces and hope both for Bolton's Premier League future and Muamba's.

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