Man of the Match v. Birmingham City: Darren Pratley

Michael Steele

We love these types of games. The kind where it is difficult to pick a man of the match because so many of the players had good performances. Bolton scored goals (good ones at that) and managed to put the game to bed. The team showed fight, understanding, passion, and quality.

If we're going by goals, then Marcos Alonso, Chung-Yong Lee, and Keith Andrews all deserve Man of the Match shouts. What about defensive performances? Marcos Alonso (again) and Tim Ream were brilliant. Then there were those that contributed without scoring: Darren Pratley, Jay Spearing, and Kevin Davies. Basically, there were a lot of Bolton men that, on any other day, could have won it.

Because there were so many choices, our shortlist came down to Jay Spearing, Darren Pratley, and Tim Ream.

Spearing has been very good for Bolton Wanderers in really just about all of his appearances. However, there is a difference between good and great and against Birmingham City, Jay Spearing was great. The difference for spearing in these games is when he doesn't have to worry too much about the defenders behind him and is allowed to get forward. From a more advanced position, he is often able to create space, dictate play, and have freedom to play incisive through balls.

Tim Ream had what was easily his best game in a Bolton Wanderers shirt. However, that isn't necessarily saying much. That said, Tim Ream was brilliant against Birmingham City. A lot of his play on the day was safety first but he looked comfortable at the back and, more importantly looked strong. Ream also dominated in the air, something that he has had lots of issues with since moving to Bolton last January.

Our man of the match though was the man that often gets the most stick from Bolton fans. Admittedly, we weren't inspired by seeing Darren Pratley's name on the starting lineup but boy did he prove us and just about everyone else wrong. One of the greatest criticisms of Bolton Wanderers this season has been an apparent lack of passion and fire on the field. The boys needed a kick up the backside and who would have thought that kick would have come from Pratley?

His technical ability over the last 18 months hasn't been the best but you could never fault his work rate. Pratley showed exactly that today and more than anything, he was unlucky to score. He ran himself ragged, did well to create opportunities for himself and others, and put in one of his best shifts in a Bolton shirt. Pratley was the Championship midfield engine that Owen Coyle signed him to be and showed the passion and fire Bolton Wanderers so desperately needed.

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