It took some (mostly) strong defense and a pair of excellent goals for Bolton Wanderers to beat Burnley at the Reebok Stadium. When all was said and done, the Trotters walked out of their home ground with vital points and a few spots in the table. As a result of the match, there were a number of good performances from men in white and made picking a Man of the Match that much more difficult.
Steve De Ridder, who was handed his full debut for Bolton (he came on as a substitute v. Watford), was probably Bolton's best player of the first half. The winger changed positions fluidly with Chris Eagles and Chung-Yong Lee and was all over the field. He proved a tricky customer for Burnley's defense with his twisting and turning runs as well as his penchant for stepovers. Unfortunately, De Ridder, like the rest of the Bolton team, was really unable to break into Burnley's box (save for one effort that skipped across the face of goal) but the boos that rang out when he was substituted are indicative of how he played.
Jay Spearing was once again the rock in midfield that Bolton needed. The loan man from Liverpool broke up a number of Burnley's attacks and spurred Bolton's advances forward. It was his excellent delivery into the box that started the play for Wanderers' winning goal and it was his (mishit) shot that David Ngog pounced on and scored with.
Marcos Alonso was once again brilliant on the left side of defense. Thanks to him, Burnley had nothing doing on the left side of the field and the one time that Junior Stanislas did break through, Alonso's tidy tackle ended the threat. The defender also proved dangerous on the attack once again and came close to scoring not long before David Ngog won it. With a free kick in dangerous position, Alonso put an excellent, low shot on target and forced a sprawling save from Lee Grant.
Craig Davies and David Ngog both deserve mention for the performance they put in after entering the match on 58 minutes. Thanks go to Ngog's ability to drift in the final third and create space, his heads-up passing, and the brilliant finish that won the match. Craig Davies showed just why Dougie Freedman made sure to sign him by showing his strength. Burnley's defense were no match for Davies' physical presence. His header for the equalizer was excellent and showed effort that Bolton have lacked for what seems like eternity. Burnley's defense were nto able to hold Davies sheer physicality off and he menaced the clarets' back line, nearly scoring after he equalized but having been stopped by Lee Grant.
Finally, Craig Dawson. This match was Craig Dawson's first in a Bolton short and he demonstrated exactly why he's such a highly-rated prospect. Dawson was strong on defense and did well to show his aerial prowess, especially at the back. Dawson was an extreme menace on attack too and came close to scoring on five different occasions, giving the Trotters a set-piece edge they've lacked for ages. Craig Dawson managed to get on the end of four separate corners, going narrowly wide on three occasions and forcing a foot save onto the post from Lee Grant for the fourth. Shortly before Ngog's winner, Dawson almost scored from the half-volley after Grant bobbled a catch.
Craig Dawson was our Man of the Match for all of the above. He didn't score any of the goals nor did he assist them but he was not far off from one or two on his debut. Dawson showed maturity and strength behind his years and, if he continues that form, will be a brilliant signing for Dougie Freedman.
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