Going up against the 4th place team, especially given Bolton's shaky form of late, was always going to be a tough match. And a tough match it was, although by and large Bolton held powerful Palace well. It was a true test of the strength of Dougie's 4-2-3-1 reinforced midfield, and illicited good performances from the defense.
The newly christened Dougie Freedman Derby was by no means an electric affair. The match was fairly end to end, but the real battle for supremacy was in the middle of the park, with Keith Andrews and Jay Spearing putting in physical performances to restrict Palace from making many dangerous chances. That said, Younick Bolasie and Wiifred Zaha certainly kept the Bolton defense busy. Marcos Alonso did well to shut Zaha down more often than not, and a discipline that our defense has been severely lacking this season was in evidence.
Chris Eagles seemed to have recaptured some of the form that lit up the first part of the season, as his early shot skittered just wide of the goal. On the 26th minute, Eagles forced the first save of the match, putting Julian Speroni at full stretch to stop his effort.
The biggest events of the match though were centered around the referee. In the 24th minute, Eagles was booked for diving, which was the start of a lengthy list in the referee's book. Just 10 minutes later, Eagles nearly earned a second as he reacted indignantly to a challenge from Dean Moxey. Luckily for the Wanderers, the winger escaped with a telling off. Home supporters made their irritation with the physical presence of Keith Andrews exceedingly clear, and he did get a yellow card in the 39th minute after clipping Zaha.
The teams went into the halftime break, which on the whole was fair. Both sides had a few chances, but both keepers performed admirably to keep their team in the match. Neither manager made changes at halftime. Despite having already played 45 minutes, the second period got off to a very disjointed start. The first real moment of action came in the 58th minute, when Kevin Davies failed to head a Chung-Yong Lee cross, and then Eagles fired wide of the post.
That set off a series of events in the match. Darren Pratley was taken down in the Palace area, but calls for a penalty were ignored by the ref. Just a few minutes later Zaha showed why he needed to be so closely marked, as he hit the post in what was probably Palace's best chance of the match. At the other end, Alonso had a chance, but his powerful shot was deflected wide.
There was a period of end-to-end play, but ultimately neither side was close enough. Strangely, in spite of his current excellent form, Freedman declined to bring on Marvin Sordell, instead putting David Ngog in the mix, and handing Craig Davies his Bolton debut.
This game was a tactical battle more than a spectacle. There were some decent offensive chances, but the real stars of the match were the holding midfielders, both of whom put in a good show. To a lesser extent, the defense also showed a solidity that they haven't in a long while. All in all, it is a clean sheet and a good point away from home. Roll on Everton and the FA Cup.