Ahead of Bolton's match with Derby County, the fans wanted to see a number of changes from the side that fought back to draw against Nottingham Forest. Dougie Freedman obliged and there were a number of changes to the side as well as an apparent change in attitude. The manager nailed his colors to the flag and Bolton went out at Pride Park in a very attacking setup.
Craig Davies and David Ngog, who had combined so well in the two previous matches, started the game. Despite two natural forwards up front, Dougie still opted for a bit of sensibility and trotted them out in a 4-4-1-1 with Ngog a bit reserved and playing behind Davies. The central midfield pair of Jay Spearing and Darren Pratley provided a relatively strong backbone with Spearing's enforcing ability and Darren Pratley's willingness to run a marathon. They were flanked by Chris Eagles and Chung-Yong Lee, who were supposed to add support on the attack.
Despite the attacking setup, Bolton's defense held relatively well. They allowed a Derby a lot of chances with the majority coming in the second half. When all was said and done, Derby put 22 shots in the general direction of goal with 10 on target. Adam Bogdan was forced to make a number of top-drawer saves but for the most part, Derby's efforts were tame and right at the goalkeeper. Craig Dawson was comfortable at the back and Zat Knight, despite being beaten by Connor Sammon on a few occasions, looked solid in defense. Knight also impressed with his distribution, as friend of Lion of Viena Suite, Michael Murray, pointed out: he "pinged a couple of beautiful long cross field balls in" and opened up the play for Bolton.
Derby's equalizer came from Wanderers' only real mistake at the back. Attacking on his left wing, Michael Jacobs beat Chung-Yong Lee and with Tyrone Mears giving him a bit of space on the wide edge of the box (like a fullback should do), Jacobs crossed in. It looked an easy enough ball to deal with but whether it was a breakdown of communication or Sam Ricketts falling asleep for a second, it wasn't dealt with. Jamie Ward's sprint to the far post caught everyone out and it was an easy nodded finish for the small Derby County man.
Under the manager, Bolton had won five, lost five, and drawn ten. The reason for that number is really down to a lack of goals scored. Botlon consistently fail to build commanding leads and when they inevitably concede, their one goal lead doesn't help. Don't get that statement wrong though, in the last nine games, Bolton are conceding (on average) just one goal per game. That's a little more impressive when you consider that five of those nine games have been away. Derby had lost just twice at home this season and Nottingham Forest, who Bolton drew 1-1 with at the weekend, had pumped Huddersfield Town 6-1 at the City Ground on Tuesday night.
The goal wasn't Dougie's doing though. There had been plenty of boos and outcries from supporters that Freedman's style was too negative. Instead of shutting up shop at Pride Park, Dougie tried to add more. His substitutions saw two strikers come on in Marvin Sordell and Kevin Davies as well as the addition of an attacking midfielder late on in hopes of forcing the winning goal.
Bolton tried to win the match rather than park the bus. Bolton took risks and that's something that every fan wanted to see. Mind that with this fanbase it is (mathematically) impossible to make everyone happy because I'm sure the boo boys will have been upset that Dougie didn't substitute three defender and Stu Holden on.
For us, there was no fault in the decision making last night in terms of the starting lineup and the substitutions. It just didn't come off for the Trotters.