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Bolton Wanderers vs. Millwall - Five Things We Learned

Mark Thompson

Wanderers faced Millwall at the Reebok and we sent our man into the stands to try and do some learning and such.

1) Our Central Defenders

Against Millwall it was again the pairing of Ream and Knight. Injuries to Wheater and Mills and a complete loss of form from Ricketts meant that we are now stuck with the aforementioned pair. Both have played international football and should both be up to the rigours of Championship football - however this was not the case on Saturday.

I have given some consideration to the calibre of opposition that they faced, and whilst I'm sure that Andy Keogh and Dany N'Guessan are nice people and probably help old ladies across the street they should be simple fodder for experienced defenders to mop up.

Yet all these things considered our boys struggled massively both on the deck and in the air. Ream was held off time and time again by N'Guessan as his lack of pace, positional sense and physical strength was evident. One example of this was when he had his back to goal in the first half against the oncoming N'Guessan, and ended up being muscled out of possession leading to an attacking chance for Millwall.

In terms of Knight he was his usual calamitous self. Nervous and unsure in possession and indecisive in positioning. He gives the supporters absolutely no confidence in his ability to go a whole 90 minutes without a single cock-up. Very disappointing. Any acceptable early season form has well and truly disappeared.

It was a point to note that their defence was superbly marshalled by an ex-Wanderer and one deemed surplus to requirements in Danny Shittu.

2) We Need Eagles

We all know that form is temporary, but class is permanent. Unfortunately at the moment we are suffering from our most creative attacking outlet having his early season form disappear in front of our very eyes.

I never thought I'd say this, but it looks to me like Mr Confidence is suffering from a little self-doubt. His tricks and flicks, shots and crosses are becoming more wayward as he tries to play himself back into the sort of form that terrorised defences in the earlier parts of the season. Some people are saying that he needs some time out of the team in order to rest up and come back with a bang - I understand this point of view but at the same time respectfully disagree. In my opinion he needs to play. He's one of our better players and until we have a serious replacement in mind he's still the best man for the job.

It also irks me to hear him being given dogs abuse from the terrace managers. We would be in a much, much worse position without him. We know full well what he can do, and we know that when he is ‘on it' then there aren't many in this league who can match his abilities. We now just need to pray that this form returns sooner rather than later.

3) Intelligence, or Lack of.....

Despite the crowd becoming more and more familiar now with the methods employed by Freedman, familiar concerns were expressed after a dismal opening fifteen minutes where Bolton were not at the races. The idiot who sits behind me bellowed FORWARD every time a sideways pass was made. I would dearly like to cause him physical harm. This sort of impatience is now commonplace around the Reebok, and I wonder when the penny will drop with some of these clowns.

In an attacking sense, we played right into Millwall's hands. We all know that Danny Shittu is a one-note defender, being as strong as an ox and having the circumference of the Death Star - yet Bolton persisted in pumping long balls in his direction which would be meat and drink to a defender like Shittu, though I expect he eats whole reindeer washed down with the tears of children. Whenever we played the ball along the ground we carved them up - however these occasions were few and far between and were not capitalised upon by our forwards. It seemed like a simple plan to keep the ball on the deck, but we continued to play to their strengths.

I lost count of the number of times that we found ourselves in promising positions in front of goal, only to take so long setting ourselves to shoot (Mr Andrews especially) that the chance was gone. We need to be more clinical in front of goal and not let these chances pass us by.

4) Championship Referees

One positive aspect of our relegation, for me, was that we would be a world away from the pompous and downright rank awful referees from the Premiership - how right I was! This lot have been nothing short of disastrous. The referees and linespeople have, without exception, been worse.

This weekend we were treated to the ‘talents' of Andrew Madley, who not only appeared to be some sort of YTS trainee, but also gave the appearance of a competition winner whose prize was to referee a Championship game. Throughout the game he continued to be wildly inconsistent. His refusal to award a free kick for Shittu's near-penetration of Kevin Davies was contrasted by his delight in giving a foul should Spearing go shoulder to shoulder with his Millwall counterpart.

He insisted on running the game from the centre of the pitch, meaning that often decisions were given from 50 or 60 yards away - culminating in one farcical moment where the referee wasn't even watching play and decided that a throw-in should be awarded to the away team.

I wouldn't say I'm longing to see the Howard Webb Dramatic Gesture Roadshow again, but I wouldn't mind someone with a bit of authority and nous in the middle.

5) Dougie's Use of Substitutes

The choice of man of the match puzzled me. Whilst I think Marcos Alonso is playing solidly enough at the moment I would have given it to Chung-Yong Lee. His substitution was baffling. Lee had their defence worried with his movement and pace, and to remove him so early made little sense to me. Once this change was made the flow that we had established since half time seemed to dissipate a little and we never again regained that momentum.

I was impressed with Marvin Sordell. Having seen him play a few times now and been completely unimpressed every time I was pleased to see flashes of what he can do. Whether or not this was due to the opposition and his own personal fight against their supporters I do not know, but it was encouraging and I would like to think he'll get a start against Sunderland in the cup to show what he can do on a bigger stage in front of a crowd rumoured to be in the millions.

I've written about Afobe many times on these pages, and so there really isn't much point (or anything interesting) in going on about him again. I'll just say ‘why?'. I'd rather Dougie Freedman took the revolutionary decision to bring on a goalkeeper to play in attacking position than Benik Afobe. He'd probably be more of a threat than the stumbling, bumbling Arsenal loanee.

One player that I thought we missed was Martin Petrov - his cut and thrust wingplay against their frankly poor defenders would have given an extra dimension to our attack. I look forward to seeing what Craig Davies can do when he finally gets to pull on the white shirt.