Boss Owen Coyle saw the pressure levels on his shoulders rise considerably as the Trotters made it five defeats in a row and 13 for the season to keep them rooted to the foot of the Premier League table. Lacking in any sort of confidence and leadership it took Martin Jol’s side just 35 minutes to secure all three points with Clint Dempsey opening the scoring just after the half hour mark before Bryan Ruiz double that advantage just two minutes later. This one was a must win for the Cottagers after they lost against Swansea last week and will be delighted that this victory leaves them with a nice five point cushion above the relegation zone. Bolton, on the other hand, are a similar amount of points away from safety and could be cut further adrift if they don’t start winning games over the festive period.
It was always going to be tough for the visitors to leave the Thames with three points under their belts with Fulham spoiling after their Europa League exit in mid-week. They certainly displayed their intentions from the first whistle as they dominated the game and were rarely tested by Coyles side who looked toothless in all areas of the field. Nigel Reo-Coker had one of the few Bolton efforts with an early strike before the home side took control with Andy Johnson shooting off target before Brede Hangeland headed wide. John Arne Riise then drew a smart save from Jussi Jaaskelainen as the hosts continued their attempts to break the deadlock. They didn’t have to wait much longer as Dempsey rose and steered home Ruiz’s for his eighth goal of the season before the Costa Rican doubled that lead just a few minutes later. Many fans have questioned whether Ruiz is worth the £11 million splashed out on him in the summer but he went a long way to repaying a large chunk of that price tag running onto Dempsey’s through ball before confidently looking the ball into the net.
The visitors improved slightly in the second half with Mark Davies forcing Stockdale into a smart save before substitutes Chris Eagles and David N’Gog went close after Coyle through them both on in an effort to claw back a point. However Fulham’s attacking intentions didn’t relent and the Trotters had Gary Cahill to thank for keeping the score at 2-0 with some superb defending. The win leaves the Cottagers just outside the top half whilst Bolton head into a crunch relegation six-pointer with Blackburn on Tuesday knowing they must win to stand any chance of beating the drop.