Today's Bolton squad had quite a few changes from their last match, which was against Sunderland in the FA Cup. But what was most surprising may have been something that didn't change; the formation. Dougie Freedman was clearly and consistently a 4-2-3-1 type of guy his first two months in charge. Recently, he has wavered in that regard. We've seen the return of the 4-4-2 formation in several matches. Today, two forwards started, three more were on the bench, and he has just signed another one.It's an interesting development, but how would it affect events on the field.
Regardless of what formation is played, the beginning of matches has become a recurring nightmare for Bolton Wanderers supporters. Today Millwall won a penalty in the 9th minute. Tim Ream gave the ball away and allowed Andy Keogh to run at Zat Knight. The Millwall forward knew he had the advantage and there was little Knight could do. The big defender took Keogh's standing leg out from under him. The same man who won the penalty stepped up to take it (Arsene Wenger would cringe) and chipped past Adam Bogdan.
There was another penalty 25 minutes later when Danny Shittu (Bolton legend?) brought Chung-Yong Lee down (just barely) in the box. Keith Andrews, who has undoubtedly seized penalty duties for Wanderers, drove it low and hard past goalkeeper David Forde. That was Andrews' fourth penalty conversion of the season, which represents all of his goal scoring.
As Mark wrote earlier today, "Bolton are now joint-top in most penalties conceded in this division (nine), bringing them level with Peterborough United. However, they are joint-third in penalties awarded (seven), tied with Leeds United, Bristol City, and Huddersfield Town.
Bolton had been dominating possession leading up to the equalizer. After they scored, Millwall seemed to be on top, though neither side could get a goal before halftime.
Bolton came out and took control fairly early in the second half. There were not a lot of chances early. As things got later, and Bolton got more desperate, Dougie Freedman finally made some changes. And good lord did he! Freedman took off both wingers, Lee and Chris Eagles, for two forwards, Benik Afobe and Marvin Sordell. This left Wanderers essentially playing a 4-2-4 formation in the final ten minutes or so.
The chances started coming hard and fast at that point. David Ngog put a few shots in, as did Afobe. Kevin Davies had a header go wide. Danny Shittu cleared a shot from Marcos Alonso off the line. Bolton were huffing and puffing, but they just could not blow Millwall's defensive house down. The final was a 1-1 draw. Again. Bolton barely ever split the points under Owen Coyle, now they do almost nothing but split the points under Freedman. The playoff spots are ten points away with 19 matches left in the season. Wanderers need to start winning at home.
It was a solid performance, which is nice to see, and bodes well going forward, but Freedman needs to show some results soon. Otherwise he, along with the rest of us, will have to start preparing for a second season in the Championship.