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5 Things: Bolton v Charlton

Chris lets out a huge sigh.....

Michael Steele

OK, here we go.

Wanderers, despite dominating possession and other meaningless statistics, still couldn't find a win. Charlton came and put up a decent fight, but all that being said, Wanderers should have won. Here are a few brainfarts:

1) About as Clinical as a Cat

Jermaine Beckford, our key summer signing, was given 11 minutes to work his magic. Exactly the same amount as he was given against Wigan Athletic last week.

Granted, he has yet to set the Bolton Wanderers' world alight. There was a period back in November where it appeared that the players had learned to read his runs, and he would invariably he on the end of passes from the back through Ream or from the midfield.

The trouble with Wanderers at the moment is that we are struggling for an identity on the field. Manager Dougie Freedman binned off Kevin Davies with one eye to the future - however we are STILL playing as he was still about the place. Joe Mason struggled with it on Saturday as did Beckford to a lesser extent.

However, the clinical striking instinct that we expect from Beckford should be key to this 'Freedman revolution', but as with other facets of it - it's not working.

Charlton scored from a cut-back. Yann Kermogant struck home sweetly following a cross from the impressive Wiggins. Beckford had an identical chance in an almost-identical position but he fluffed it.

When your main strikers are struggling so desperately, you cannot afford to miss.

If Dougie insists on playing long balls to the striker it is imperative that he goes out and signs a target man. Mason is a grafter, but doesn't have the physical presence. David Ngog is off to Turkey and Jermaine Beckford leaves me more frustrated than anything else.

Craig Davies, for all his faults, may be worth a try.

2) Tim Ream

I think Tim Ream has been one of few successes this season. I qualify this in terms of how poor he has been for the majority of his time at the club. He started off in midfield, but has since returned to centre half, alongside Matt Mills for the main part.

However, Saturday was a return to the 'bad' old Ream. In his defence he was hardly helped by the poor performance of the other members of the back four.

The 'old' Ream would be caught on his heels by a pacey striker - tick

The 'old' Ream would be caught out of position, forcing another defender to leave his post to cover - tick

The 'old' Ream would struggle with aerial duals - tick

I'm of the opinion that Ream is best deployed as a defensive midfielder sitting in front of the central defenders. The form of Jay Spearing and Medo this season has been so poor that I believe Freedman should have made this switch sooner.

Ream and Mills and formed a decent partnership at the back, up until Saturday, but that Ream has yet to eradicate the calamitious 'rick' that has been a worrying part of his game is a genuine concern. We are not solid enough to be able to handle this sort of risk in a defender.

For the record, Mills was shit too. Let's hope it's just a blip because I don't want Zat Knight back.

3) Lateness of subs

Dougie Freedman has been at Bolton Wanderers since October 2012, and since his arrival I remember being a bit bothered by his use of substitutes - mainly with how late in the day it is before he calls upon his reinforcements.

Whether it's confidence in his starting XI or a lack of faith in those he has deemed to not be good enough start I am not sure, but I know from my point of view that I would like changes to come sooner in the game.

I don't normally bother taking the time to do a bit of research for this column, but on this occasion I believe it might be worth my while. I'm just going to pause the film I'm watching on Netflix, and check the timing of Dougie's subs from the last half dozen games or so, hang on:

Charlton - '73, '79, '86

Wigan - '79, '83' 89

Watford - '75, '85, '95

Middlesbrough - '70, '83, '83

Huddersfield - '56, '60, '75

Millwall - '60, '78, '83

So as you can see, he's really not keen on making changes before the hour mark.

On Saturday, it was clear from the first minute that we were struggling in midfield. Before the game I was not keen on throwing Mark Davies straight into the team, but with the performance of the midfield in the opening half hour against Charlton I would have made an immediate change and brought Mark Davies on.

In the past I've seen managers such as Chelsea boss José Mourinho make substitutions as and when they are required. I remember one particular game that saw Shaun Wright-Phillips given the hook after 20 minutes or so when the manager's tactics appeared to be incorrect. I would have loved Dougie to have had the bollocks to make a similar change on Saturday.

Charlton had us on the run, and for us to bring on someone like Mark Davies who has the capability to keep the ball in his possession would have eliminated a key facet of Charlton's attack.

It works on Football Manager anyway.

4) Importance of Mark Davies

For Christ's sake Dougie - Mark Davies, if fit, MUST start every Bolton Wanderers game from now on. His 17 minute cameo against Charlton provided us with a view of how we can get ourselves out of the mess in which we find ourselves.

A trademark run with the ball (and a trademark bad tackle, tbf, tbh) brought a rare smile to the faces of the supporters. The lack of anyone else willing or able to perform this role before Davies' arrival was concerning, and so his immediate willingness to get on the ball and look to make something happen was both necessary and encouraging.

Referring back to Beckford in point one - to have a player in our midfield like Mark Davies can only help a striker who makes intelligent runs but who does not have intelligent players providing him with intelligent passes.

Before his terrible injury ten months ago, Davies had added goals to his game. We will need him to hit the ground running on his return to the team and I am hopeful this will come to pass.

The Christmas period is a tough one, both physically and mentally, and so the return of Davies not only adds quality to our ranks but also another body during a demanding run of games. Any slight advantage that we can give ourselves in the next fortnight must be taken.

Mark Davies must start.

5) Where do we go from here?

I'm getting a bit fed up (well, a lot fed up) of leaving the ground with a funk on.

When Dougie Freedman came in I remember making a comment about 'preferring a young, hungry manager rather than a dinosaur like Mick McCarthy' (cheers Joe), but now I can see the folly in such an opinion.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with a young and hungry manager, there is also a lot to be said for experience. One criticism of the last manager, Owen Coyle, was that he didn't have an older head to bounce ideas from. Freedman has Lennie Lawrence who himself has been a League manager since 1978, and the idea behind bringing in an older man as a sounding board made perfect sense.

However, things just do not appear to be working out.

People (me included) scoffed at the mention of the likes of Mick McCarthy and Steve McLaren et al when mooted as replacements for Coyle back in 2012. What we wouldn't give for either manager right now!

Giving a manager time is an admirable sentiment, but when there is a real chance of Wanderers not only missing out on the Play Offs but of sinking to League One then I find it increasingly difficult to understand the point of view of the more patient elements of our support.

Dougie Freedman inherited a relatively strong squad for this division, and so to remove him from his job before the transfer window isn't the reason why I believe he should be removed. The season is still, barely, retrievable, but only just and if we want to have a chance (however remote) then we should be looking for a new manager.

We sacked Gary Megson because we couldn't countenance the possibility of relegation. I fear that if we keep Freedman we are going to be facing seasons of Championship football 'at best'. Promotion might be mathetically possible, but let us be realists here.

Freedman hasn't taken us forward. He hasn't made us any tougher to beat or more attractive to watch. Our best players against Charlton were Neil Danns and Kevin McNaughton, a pair of loan signings brought in by a manager who once claimed he doesn't like to use the loan market.

Since October 2012 we have chopped and changed the squad, largely relying on loan players. Last season's relative success was based upon the performances of WBA's Craig Dawson who was the backbone behind a run of late-season form.

I believe Freedman has the backing of the chairman, but from a fan's point of view he is barely keeping his head above water. The McNaughton goal on Saturday came at the perfect time, because for those unable to make it to the Reebok believe me the atmosphere was bubbling under with a palpable air of negativity. I think I even heard a couple of boos in the first ten minutes of the game!

I would have given him the sack after that ten game run without a win. That is almost a quarter of the whole season. You cannot base a successful season on those foundations. Where is the cut-off point? Do we have to go 11 games without a win in order to be justified in getting rid? 15? 20?

You can argue that we have gone backwards since his appointment. I appreciate that the club he took over had problems, but have any of those issues been addressed?

Freedman often spoke, in his early days at Bolton Wanderers, about removing the bad eggs from the dressing room. He made a big show of letting Kevin Davies go, for example, but can anyone look at the team at the moment and see a dressing room that is together fighting for a common cause?

They look as divided as ever, to me.

I'm going to stop here because otherwise I'll be writing all night, and frankly I have missed enough of this film as it stands. It's called THE EXAM and it's got him from James Bond in it. It's about some people taking a test to join a company and they start going a bit mental. I think. I don't know.