It was another frustrating night for the Bolton Wanderers, and another long journey home with zero points for their effort. Birmingham did what they needed to do to win the match, namely take advantage of the chances given to them, and Bolton once again looked incapable of doing so, not matter how many they set up.
It was a typical Bolton start really. The Trotters started brightly enough, making numerous forays into the Birmingham area. However, 16 minutes in concentration lapsed and Leroy Lita put the home side ahead. Paul Caddis crossed the ball into the six yard box, and Lita put it in the bottom right hand corner of the goal. One minute later Bolton's bad luck continued, as Jay Spearing was forced to come off due to injury, replaced by Keith Andrews. However, uncharacteristically, the Wanderers stayed in the match, and even managed to look the better side that half.
In the 37th minute, David Ngog had an excellent chance one-on-one with Jack Butland, set up by Chris Eagles of course, but his head went straight into the keeper. It looked like wasted chances would be the story of the half for Bolton, but in the 43rd minute, Chris Eagles made sure it would not be so. Stephen Caldwell fouled Ngog, giving away a freekick 30 yards out. Eagles stepped up to take it, and his shot curled beautifully into the top right corner of the net, giving Butland no chance. The teams went into
But it was not to last, and Bolton's halftime hoodoo was in full effect. It is a mystery, whatever goes on in those 15 minutes in the dressing room, but whatever it is it needs to stop. Just 2 minutes after the restart, Zat Knight managed to concede a penalty by taking Marlon King down in the box. King himself stepped up to take, and he converted, putting Bolton behind once again. After that Birmingham were most definitely in the ascendancy.
Coyle recognised this and tried to change Bolton's luck, making a double substitution of Martin Petrov and Benik Afobe on for Chung-Yong Lee and David Ngog. This seemed to do little to interrupt the Blues' flow. Adam Bogdan was forced to prove his worth multiple times, including a fantastic save from Nathan Redmond 25 yards out.
Gradually Bolton did wedge their way back into the game, but none of the chances would line up just right. Mark Davies got a dangerous ball in Birmingham's box, but in the end Butland made an easy save. Afobe also had a chance in the box, but was muscled off the ball as only a 19 year old from Arsenal can be. The best opportunity probably fell to Marcos Alonso, but he couldn't get ahold of his shot and it went wide. There were a few more chances, but after 4 minutes of stoppage time the whistle blew and Birmingham came away with all 3 points.
This, for the most part, was Bolton's game. The Trotters were dominant for vast swathes of the match, tallying 17 shots to the Blues' 10, and 12 shots on target to their 7. However Birmingham had the shots that counted in the end. While the story arc of the match - concede, get a good goal back, go down after halftime, never recover - is not unfamiliar to Bolton fans, this match was different in that this time Bolton deserved to win.
Many fans have already lost patience with Coyle, and understandably. It's been a trying year for us, and things do need to look up soon. But this game, although the result is poor, was an improvement on the losses from earlier this season. This Bolton did not crumple and fall after going down not once, but twice. The finishing is still not good enough, and it is very frustrating, but slowly it looks like the pieces are coming together. It's frustrating, but that much is to be expected from the first season in the Championship after 10 years. Bolton are in 15th place, only 3 points off 6th. There are still many games to go this season, and if the team keeps making little improvements like we saw today, they could pull through after all.