When the fixtures came out at the start of the season, not many Bolton fans would've looked at Derby away as a must go to game. When you added the fact that it was on a Tuesday night in February, just days after another trip to the East Midlands, a healthy 800 or so Whites made the journey down to Pride Park. Amongst those hardy souls was myself who specifically targeted this as a must go to game for the simple fact that Derby is actually the city of my birth (true fact, evidence from my passport/birth certificate can be provided on request).
Anyway, enough with the unnecessary interlude, we'll get into the nitty gritty of my view from the back row. Sat in a pub in Hatton, just off the A50, about few miles north of Burton-on-Trent, mulling things over with a pint at about half 3, I decided that if we came away from the game with a point, I'd be very happy given Derby's home form and our general away form yet somehow came away from the game disappointed that we didn't take the lot.
Seeing the line-up filled me with a veiled optimism, a very dangerous mind-set for a Bolton fan, 4-4-2, what has the makings of a dynamic duo up front and an almost settled defensive unit. I was possibly in the minority who was happy to see Eagles restored and de Ridder dropped. After just about making it into the ground and finding a seat, due to being in the Harvester just around the corner until 7.30 (thought kick off was 8pm) I ended up on the back row which is usually where I try and place myself because it allows me to stand all game and not impede anyone else's view.
The first half, what really to say about it? Unspectacular, two evenly matched teams who pretty much cancelled each other out, both keepers having regulation saves to make and two unnecessarily long stoppages for injury treatment, Derby's Kieron Freeman and Bolton's Craig Dawson who both seemed to go down despite not being challenged led to 4 minutes of stoppage time that nobody wanted but it was within those extra minutes, we finally had a moment of quality in the game.
Bolton won a free kick about 40 yards from goal, ten yards in from the left hand touchline, Jay Spearing took responsibility and after standing for about 30 seconds doing the Team America danger signal, whipped a masterful cross into the area which was glanced past the stranded Adam Legzdins in the Derby goal. Initially we thought we were celebrating Craig Dawson scoring his first for the club but I'm led to believe it was a Richard Keogh own goal. It meant the Bolton fans that hadn't gone on the beer/brew/bovril run early (mentioning no names, @LeytherMatt) went mental.
The second half came around and we soaked up everything Derby threw at us, Adam Bogdan made some quality saves yet again and some brave last ditch defending, combined with some poor finishing from Derby and the handicap of having Connor Sammon up front, meant that we managed to keep our clean sheet intact whilst also looking threatening on the break. That was until the final ten minutes when firstly Chung-Yong Lee didn't press his man and then, from our position in the stand, it looked like Sam Ricketts left the ball, anticipating it would go for a throw rather than nodding it behind for a corner. This left Jamie Ward to nod an accurate header across Bogdan into the far corner.
Both teams went for a winner in the closing stages, Bogdan saving superbly from a corner, Sordell having a goal chalked off for offside when he really shouldn't have been (the decision was correct, he could and should've held his run) and both teams cleared off the line twice in a couple of final, frantic flourishes.
So, when all the shouting was done, it finished 1-1 and both teams, probably deservedly took a share of the game and we all set upon our respective journeys home to reflect upon what we'd all witnessed. The question was, what had we actually witnessed?
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Much maligned for his inability in the air, to command his area, to parry shots away from goal. Yet again I felt Bogdan had improved on all these areas. Yet again he was solid when called upon and yet again he had no chance with the goal. The lad is improving and with what is starting to look like a competent defensive unit in front of him; Shaggy seems to be playing with much more confidence than he has had for a long time. For me, he is the correct choice to start ahead of Lonergan. I've seen enough of Lonergan over his career to know he isn't any better than Bogdan. Both are very good shot stoppers but personally I think a confident Bogdan is far better in the air.
Personally he was my Man of the Match. Led the line very well, pressed, hassled the defence, was an outlet that was always available and always looking for work. He was very unfortunate that he didn't get a clear sight of goal last night. I was very impressed when he played against us for Barnsley and was cautiously optimistic about what he'd bring to us.
Chris Eagles / Chung Yong Lee
I thought both played better than they have done recently although, knowing what both are capable of, I was still disappointed with their performances. Both are clearly lacking in confidence but I do believe that Dougie is doing the right thing in trying to play them back into confidence. Both have proven this season that, even when not playing well, they can influence games, Eagles was totally ineffective at Brighton bar his final drive past the full back to set up the equaliser and Chungy's cross for Craig Davies against Burnley was quality.
I was impressed with our supporters last night, not only does it seem that they are starting to buy into Dougie's philosophy of patience, the substitutions were greeted with generous applause and the general backing was excellent. During the second half especially, the fans were singing loudly and proudly, my voice is still knackered because of it. What we need to do is to translate the general atmosphere on the road to the Reebok.
Alan Davies of Jonathan Creek and QI fame once described the Reebok as a volatile and hostile place for away teams to come, one because of the physicality on the pitch and the partisan atmosphere in the stands. Personally I think he was bitter that we kept turning The Arse over but we need to recapture some of that spirit and hopefully we can inspire the team, who can in turn inspire us.
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