After gaining international clearance, loanee Kevin McNaughton made his debut for the Wanderers, covering for the injured Marc Tierney. Bolton lined up playing the now-familiar 4-2-3-1 with only one wide player starting the game. After an initial scratch of the head, itwas apparent that Dougie Freedman wanted to utilize Blackpool’s pitch, which is the smallest in the division.
One notable absence from Tuesday’s starting 11 was winger Chung-Yong Lee. After his poor performance against Yoevil on Saturday, Freedman dropped him to the bench where he was surprisingly joined by the likes of Chris Eagles and (not-so-surprisingly) Zat Knight. This was the first time that the South Korean had been benched since Boxing Day, which was 32 games ago just in case you had lost count.
Lee’s replacement, Liam Feeney, snatched at the opportunity to impress with the Millwall loanee making his full Bolton Wanderers debut. Feeney was instrumental in nearly every attacking move, threatening Matt Gilks’ goal on various occasions with his crossing abilities. The Trotters opportunities throughout the match with the first real chance of the game came early on in the opening half when Feeney escaped from the young Liverpool left back, Jack Robinson, and picked out our "prolific" striker, Jermaine Beckford. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen all too many times this season' he fluffed his lines as Matt Gilks was grateful to see the ball go easily into his arms.
After this, the home side started to get a foothold in the game; since his blunder against Yeovil on Saturday, Adam Bogdan had a point to prove. Tom Ince forced the Bolton goalkeeper to make a smart save from his fierce angled drive. Minutes later, Ricardo Fuller stung the gloves of Bogdan with a well-struck near-post effort. With this the Seasiders finished the first half the stronger side.
Arguably the best chance of the game fell to Jermaine Beckford on the 49th minute. The ex-Leeds and Everton striker had a chance to break his scoring duck in the League this season after Darren Pratley pounced on a mistake by Kirk Broadfoot and sent his team-mate clear. The ball rolled around Matt Gilks in the Blackpool goal and trickled around the wrong side of the post. He was a lick of paint away from opening his account for this campaign.
Beckford was involved again as Bolton pushed forward for a dramatic winner. In the 82nd minute, Beckford met Pratley’s cross with intent. The 29 year old was on course to bagging his first goal for the Trotters until Gary MacKenzie hooked it off the line with Baptiste unable to bundle in the rebound. The Whites were knocking on the door and may feel hard done by leaving empty handed, especially with their late penalty shout arguably unjustly denied. In the dying embers of the game Beckford was floored by a flailing arm from MacKenzie, despite a very large appeal from the travelling contingency, referee Neil Swarbrick blew his whistle for full time and ended what was quite a fierce and well-fought Lancashire derby.
In the greater scheme, a point isn’t that bad at all. Adam Bogdan kept his first league clean sheet since March, which came in our 2-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers. After his error at the weekend, he recovered well and came back strong.
The old cliché of "goals win games" is a load of rubbish. Clean sheets win games. You don’t try to outscore the opponents ending up with cricket scores; if we can get our defence tight then it gives us a solid foundation to work on. A clean sheet away from home is impressive considering that they’ve scored in all of the previous nine Championship games. That aforementioned cliche, while not the be-all, certainly does have some truth to it. Bolton Wanderers desperately need to be more clinical and far more ruthless. Although Beckford was looking a lot brighter and sharper, we still lack a clinical finisher, an Ivan Klasníc.
Our new signings also proved to be more than satisfactory with Feeney and McNaughton particularly standing out. Kevin McNaughton impressed numerous supporters tonight with his consistency. The Cardiff loanee wasn’t stunning, just very solid which is what you need in this division.
Speaking after the game manager Dougie Freedman had this to say to the clubs’ official website:
"Liam Feeney was fantastic. I don’t think too many people had heard of him before he came here, but I’m a manager who likes to pull these players out of the bag.
"Kevin McNaughton brings some defensive qualities and he’s got that defensive instinct to know where to be, and his partnership with Liam was great tonight."
This result sets the Wanderers up nicely for their trip to St Andrews on Saturday. After our strong defensive showing on Tuesday night expectations should have been raised going into the game. Three points has to be the expectation and I’m confident that we can achieve that.