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Bolton v Huddersfield: Match Report

Bolton Wanderers came into this cold Tuesday night tie at The Reebok on the back of their first defeat in 9 outings. Mark Robins’ Huddersfield Town side crossed the Pennines to the Premier Northern County and had nothing to fear against a Wanderers side with only one win at home so far this campaign.

Should Spearing or Medo be dropped?
Should Spearing or Medo be dropped?
Chris Brunskill

The line-ups were posted an hour before kickoff.  Zat Knight was a surprise inclusion as Dougie Freedman saw the need to change the back four, Alex Baptiste had to settle for the bench as Tim Ream was moved out to left-back. Against probably every fan's wish, Medo Kamara and Jay Spearing were deployed together as Bolton Wanderers looked to counter and deployed the pace of Rob Hall on the right wing to do just that. The Huddersfield starting XI saw a return for former Wanderers player Danny Ward.

The game started in messy fashion. Both teams committed numerous fouls as the height and size of the line-ups became evident. Huddersfield forward James Vaughan and Whites defender Matt Mills were getting to know each other very well before the first meaningful event of the match saw Rob Hall test Huddersfield Goalkeeper Alex Smithies from 20 yards with the impressive goalkeeper batting the ball away from danger. Huddersfield replied immediately with former-Wanderer Danny Ward hitting the post for the visitors after good work from Jonathan Hogg.

The game then burst into life as Bolton looked to take the lead, Andre Moritz, possibly the most unfit player to wear a Wanderers shirt since his tubby compatriot Mario Jardel, should have hit the back of the net but his low shot  was directed wide by Smithies. He should have scored. From the resulting corner, taken by Moritz, Matt Mills powered a header goalwards, only to be denied by a fine save from Smithies.

A particularly worrying visual for the Wanderers of the Nat Lofthouse Stand Lower was Moritz's clear tiredness just 25 minutes into the game.  The player was not only one yard, but two off the pace and considering the manager held back Craig Davies for long periods last season due to fitness concerns, I, like many on Twitter last night, am really concerned Moritz was allowed to play in that condition.

Huddersfield Town were making headway themselves, led primarily by Oliver Norwood.  The former Manchester United midfielder was controlling the game and continued to force the Wanderers midfield pairing of Spearing and Medo to play deep in their own half. Ward came close again with his dangerous left foot and there was also a headed chance for James Vaughan.

As the game wound down to half time, midfielder Ward limped off to be replaced by Scott Scannell.  Ward was clearly disappointed and one can only hope it is not a serious injury.

There were no changes during half-time. Huddersfield Town attacked from the off and Scannell came close within the first minute. Norwood also had a shot from distance which was blocked by the Wanderers back line. Space was at a premium and both teams made substitutions to try and swing the game in their favour.  Wanderers introduced Chung-Yong Lee in place of Rob Hall, who had quite a good game on the right-wing. Chungy would soon have a chance but could only steer his header over after Kevin McNaughton's high cross.

Huddersfield continued to look dangerous and in Scannell had a willing runner to work with James Vaughan. On 70 minutes they had their goal, a swerving wonder-strike from Northern Ireland international Norwood found Andy Lonergan's top left-hand corner.  The disgruntlement of the Wanderers fans was plain to see as their side looked condemned to another home defeat.

Dougie Freedman reacted with the introduction of David Ngog and Joe Mason (again) as Wanderers looked to try and level a game they should really have been winning.  However, with space to exploit and players capable of doing so, it was Huddersfield who piled the pressure on.  James Vaughan had a shot blocked and Oscar Gobern fired wide.

In the latter parts of the game Bolton did begin to apply some pressure.  Freedman turned to his 'plan B' of sending Zat Knight into the attack  (yes, Zat Knight) and Wanderers used the long ball hoping to create for players around Knight. This tactic would bring about the chance of the game as Knight 'found' Jermaine Beckford free with the striker gifted the opportunity to make amends for his penalty miss at the weekend only for him to thrash the ball wide and condemn Wanderers to successive defeats.

It is becoming all the more palpable that Beckford simply is not a player for the big occasion and loses all composure when provided opportunities in key moments.  How many points will this cost us come May?

Other disappointing aspects were the behaviour of Medo during his substitution, Fabrice Muamba's Twitter 'rant' and the 'altercation' of manager Dougie Freedman with a frustrated Wanderers' fan. It was a wretched night for Bolton Wanderers indeed.