1) Jay Spearing and Medo
Another week, another shit performance from our holding midfielders.
We have become somewhat used to their underwhelming efforts on the field, but last night took the metaphorical biscuit.
Jay Spearing is our captain - but last night he seemed to be actively hiding from the ball. Given how bad his distribution has become then I am not surprised. He made his usual couple of rash challenges and was warned about his conduct by the referee within half an hour and vanished from the game entirely after that. It became so apparent that at times I wondered whether we had re-signed Keith Andrews. At least Andrews could pass a ball.
Throughout this season the defence has been forced to play any number of hoofed long balls forward to the strikers to bypass the midfield because the two holding midfielders do not ‘show' for the ball. One tactic to get round this would be to remove Tim Ream from the back four and re-introduce him to the defensive midfield role that he performed with distinction earlier this season.
Medo is another strange one. When he arrived almost a year ago he was a fantastic addition, and we have heard on more than one occasion from our glorious leader that he is a bargain signing and one of the best players in the division.
Guess that's something else that I need to be educated upon.
His mistake for the goal was criminal. He didn't even look up before punting it straight to the feet of Oliver Norwood who, to be fair, hit an absolute world-class effort into the top corner, leaving Andy Lonergan with no chance. Fair enough he held his hands up in apology as he left the field soon after, but I'd rather he didn't make the mistake in the first place.
Distribution from the goalkeeper to either Mills or Knight and then Medo or Spearing was just not there, and left us as a one-dimensional long ball side with a focal striker who can't head a ball. Yet another fucking baffling part of the Dougie Freedman masterplan.
Last night followed a familiar script - Bolton played like the away team (as I think we have in the majority of the games this season). There is nothing wrong with this approach, but if you continue to permit the opposition to dominate possession, as we do, then eventually they willl do something with it, whether it's QPR, Huddersfield or Yeovil.
Dougie Freedman sets us up to ‘not' lose games rather than to win which leads us to draws and defeats with the odd win thrown in. I like the way we set up in our awayfixtures, but we simply cannot play the same way in our home games.
It's a familiar line this season, but I sincerely believe that we do have better players than most in this division, and we need to get at teams at home. For example - on paper is there a single Huddersfield player who would get in our team? Perhaps James Vaughan - but the reality last night was that every single Huddersfield player was better than his Bolton counterpart because they were well drilled and organised.
The speed with which they closed down play gave our creative forces minimal time on the ball to cause havoc - the number of times that Andre Moritz was dispossessed immediately after receiving the ball was telling. They closed our lads down at twice the speed that we did to them.
Teams have come to the Reebok to shut up shop and we do exactly the same, and our style of play hasn't progressed one iota since Dougie arrived - a fact that we were forewarned about by Crystal Palace supporters, if memory serves. We are playing as many, if not more long-balls than we ever did under Sam Allardyce or Gary Megson. In fact, we may as well have kept Kevin Davies because at least we might have won a few.
With the team we have, when we play at home, I fully believe that we should fucking attack with extreme fucking menace and TRY TO OUTSCORE THE OPPONENT. Aiming for 1-0 at home EVERY SINGLE WEEK will never work in the long run. I thought that in the first half last night we actually managed to create a couple of decent chances out of absolutely nowhere. The bright spot was the first half performance of Rob Hall who seemed to be the only one capable/willing to run at the Huddersfield defence. He might have made the wrong decision at a couple key moments but he's only young and will learn - his exuberance perhaps getting the better of him but at least he was trying to make a difference.
So yeah, pragmatism, I fucking hate it, it's stupid.
The half-chance shot ‘on the run' brought a good save from their keeper, but the second half header and left-foot volley soon after was fucking atrocious. No excuses. Both were easy chances and we cannot afford him for him to fuck them up.
We are a team with shit strikers - and when the one striker who is slightly less shit than the others misses chances like these then we're fucked because we have no-one else. The olden days would see midfielders like Kevin Nolan or Per Frandsen chip in with half a dozen goals (or more) per season - when Chris Eagles isn't playing then our midfield and supporting attackers offer fuck all in terms of goals. I can't even remember the last time Chung Yong scored.
I feel sorry for Beckford at times - we tried to play the killer ball to him on at least six occasions last night, and they failed to work each and every time. The volley at the end came from a deflection caused by another mis-hit long pass to him. He must be as frustrated as we are in the stands.
Whilst I don't particularly rate Craig Davies, surely the time has come to at least give him a go. If Connor Wilkinson isn't on the bench on Saturday then that's another nail in the Dougie coffin as far as I'm concerned.
It's all well and good talking up your belief in the youth system - but what more can a young striker do than score goals on a consistent basis? Have some bollocks Dougie and stick him in - you never fucking know.
4) Andre Moritz
I doubt I'm the only one who came away from the game really disappointed with the performance of Andre Moritz.
He was ineffective and put in the sort of performance that has (rightly) earned Chris Eagles a place on the bench. He was either too deep, or too advanced, and this left him as being completely ineffectual. We were overrun in midfield despite playing five people there. He's clearly no use to us with the ball at his feet on halfway, he needs to receive it further forward to hurt other teams. He went in search of the ball and this meant that he was neither one thing nor the other to our play.
Based on last night's evidence, Moritz should be an impact sub. Brought on with half an hour to play when Mark Davies is tiring. I can't see them playing together in the same team.
5) Is Dougie the Right Man?
I don't know about you lot, but I don't think I have enjoyed a single home fixture this season. Granted, I missed the Millwall game through work, but the ones that I have attended have been fucking tedious.
Our manager's Plan B appears to be very simple. He has no other method than desperately playing three strikers and Zat Knight up top in the last ten minutes. This ‘advocate of the youth system' chose not to look to our reserves for goalscorers, but instead to a 6'7 shithouse who is scared of heading the ball. This ‘tactic' is embarrassing.
I've liked what I've heard from Dougie, for the most part, but I think I've finally crossed over. I've had my loyalty severely fucking tested.
Upon leaving the ground last night I heard someone say that they had believed that Freedman would sort things out and be the man to push us on - but with a heavy heart I had to disagree. Every week the man seems determined to prove that he hasn't a fucking clue what he's doing. His constant tinkering smacks of an indecisiveness, in order to avoid the familiar embarrassment of yet another home defeat for Bolton Wanderers by a team that we really should be beating.
Yet again I find myself thinking that Saturday is a huge game for the club and for the manager.
Another defeat is unthinkable but also is absolutely possible.
We need a fast start and we also need to start the game with two strikers on the field (not Zat). I can only look back at the time post-Coyle and at the start of this season when names such as Mick McCarthy, Steve McLaren and Tony Pulis were thrown into the mix and largely scoffed at (myself included) with shame. I do not doubt that any of those three could have us in a better position than Sir Douglas.
I was driving home after the game last night and was thinking about who we could bring in should the chairman decide to pull the plug on Freedman - and my thoughts (as they usually do tbh tbf) led to Sam Allardyce. Unappreciated by those Southern grot peddlers, he would be the only choice for me.
A few cryptics tweets met this suggestion with ‘I know for a fact he would come back if the chairman left' which then led me to think that tough decisions lie ahead for some within the club.
They say you should never go back, but come on, be honest - the thought of Bolton Wanderers managed by Sam Allardyce is an exciting thought, isn't it?