Well it must be said my mindset on this match was not as optimistic as my match preview might have suggested. I spent all of yesterday talking it down to myself, saying it was only the Carling Cup, and besides if we got knocked out that would only let us focus more on the league and the FA Cup. But honestly I don't think I've been more pleased with Bolton in a really long time, perhaps even since our stunning comeback at Stamford Bridge in April, even though it was just a Carling Cup tie. We deserved to win, we played well, we attacked and created chances. In short we played like a top flight team, which is what we are and what we should be playing like, though you'd be hard pressed to prove that from our recent form.
Gary Megson did as promised field a full strength side. He basically fielded what I think is our strongest 11 (with the exception: I would replace Ricketts with Steinsson). Unfortunately, even though I was home sick from school, I was not able to watch the game as I couldn't find a stream (Side note: could any of you find a stream? Or even watch it on television? Anywhere in the world? I'm pretty sure it wasn't broadcast), I also can't find any highlights (though I found some video of the Elmander goal-lovely) so if anyone can direct me to that it would be amazing (For an UPDATE look at the bottom of the post). I did listen to the game via BBC London on the BBC site (which was an amazing experience, but I'll get to that in a second). Now right into it:
The first half was quite a bit of attacking with very little finishing. It was end to end stuff (the radio commentators called it pulsating about 83 times over the course of the game). Most of the non-Bolton-centric match reports suggest that West Ham played the better football in this half, however the radio commentators and match reports written by Bolton fans suggest the opposite. I'm going to say it was probably pretty even, with both teams attacking, and not defending particularly well (fancy that, Bolton not defending particularly well!). Klasnic looked pretty good, and as I said in the past he has time to get better. Often it takes strikers a lot longer than other players to regain match instincts and confidence. If nothing else his start will inspire Elmander. Last season Elmander had no competition, but now he has to prove he's worth the start. Clearly something clicked with him as he scored for the first time in almost 9 months, but we'll get to that later.
Bolton opened the second half with a series of attacks, but the West Ham goal was to come against the run of play. As Matt Taylor tried to clear what was by all accounts a poor corner from Diamante, he merely put it in Ilunga's path, Ilunga then scored from point blank. Again our defending of set pieces was suspect, that's something we really need to work on. Taylor was, however, quick to make up for his mistake. He continued to create chances for Bolton from free kicks or corners (of which Bolton had 21 by the way, further proof of their attacks). Finally with only 4 minutes of regular time, Taylor sets up Kevin Davies for a diving header, which pushed the match into extra time.
Bolton continued to threaten in extra time and the match commentator continued to use the phrase "pulsating football" in about every other sentence. Elmander had come on 14 minutes before the start of extra time and he was eager to prove why he deserved to be named in the starting 11. Both he and another substitute Lee Chung Yong sought to make themselves useful, but it was Muamba, who had been pestering Green all night, who's shot deflected for the dear Gary Cahill to score.
Lee and Elmander would get their chance though as Elmander slid to push in Lee's cross and seal Bolton's win. As I said earlier he hasn't scored in almost 9 months (since December 13th to be exact) and I have a feeling that his competition jogged a little sense into him. As it bloody well should, we paid 10 million for that man, we did not pay 10 million for a striker who can't score. Hopefully Elmander will set about justifying his transfer fee soon.
All I can say is I hope Fabio Capello was paying attention as Gary Cahill has been in impeccable form recently and definitely deserves an England go. I reckon he should play (if not start) in the friendly against Brazil in November, especially now that Upson is injured (though I'm not sure how long he'll be out, anyone?). Cahill has more than earned his cap, and the chat on BBC's 606 suggests than not just Bolton fans think that. There's even rumors circulating that he may go to Juve or AC Milan come January. I desperately hope he doesn't, but quite honestly at this point I wouldn't blame him.
So being an American I hadn't really ever listened to sport on the radio, except for my yearly trips to England (my dad's English, we go visit family and friends, and of course see the mighty Whites), and even then I had never heard anything I really care about on the radio (a tennis match once, and a bit of FA Cup involving no teams I cared about really). And basically my conclusion is: it's awesome. Every fan should do it at some point. It's a completely different experience, I felt as though I had stepped back in time to 50 years ago. I pictures grim faced old men listening with me, thousands of miles away, muttering darkly to their dinners. In short if you're a silly American/not British like me, listen to a radio commentary of a match someday, you'll not regret it.
I would also like to bring to your attention some very encouraging statistics. We forced 21 corners. That's proof we were actually hassling their defense instead of just shooting long balls up to Super Kev and crossing our fingers that he'd do something. Also we had 24, that's TWENTY FOUR, shots and of those 24, 14 were on target! How amazing is that? Ladies and gents, finally, it appears as if we might be, dare I say it? Dangerous.
And finally, on the fans. Although the attendance was very low (I believe I read 8050 on the BBC), the fans at the Reebok actually supported their team. They got behind Bolton and encouraged the win instead of chanting negatively as they have been recently. There's no doubt that a positive atmosphere does help the players, and hopefully such a positive result will help convince the Negative Nelly's amongst us to stop it. Megson commented on how it helped the team, and he almost apologized for Bolton's recent form. This is all progress.
I believe that's all I have to say, please ignore the giddy-17-year-old-girlness that snuck in there, I'm afraid I can't help it. This game just gave me so much hope! I'll be sure to keep you updated on who we draw for the 4th round, til my match preview my dears!