Oh Bolton. Why do you do this to us? I used to look forward to Saturdays. I used to enjoy the weekends. They were a pleasant time. I relaxed, I saw family and friends, I completed a few chores around the house. I even got to sleep a little late. And for two hours every Saturday, I watched my beloved Bolton Wanderers play football. It was good fun.
Those times have gone. Now, Bolton Wanderers frustrate the hell out of me for two hours, then I write about it.
Brighton & Hove Albion came into Saturday's match unbeaten in five. Bolton came in bottom of the table. And they gave us all false hope early on. Poor control and sloppy passing from Brighton's back line led to a giveaway in their own half. David Ngog ended up with the ball at his feet in a good position. The shot was actually decent, low and hard, but the keeper made a nice save. No one in a Bolton shirt was close enough to fight for the rebound. Nothing came of it, but could this be a glimmer of hope?
The answer came a few minutes later. Chung-Yong Lee put a cross in from Chris Eagles' short corner. The ball took a deflection off David Lopez which sent it towards goal at a severe angle. Ngog slid in right in front of Brighton keeper Tomasz Kuszczak. Some initial reports actually stated that Chungy got the goal, while others assumed that Ngog had got a touch to put it past the keeper. In the end it was given as an own goal. That said, Lee certainly deserves credit for working himself into a good position and putting in a powerful, low cross. Ngog, who has come in for a lot of criticism this season, also played a large part. If he hadn't been there, it is very likely that Kuszczak would have made the save.
Goal aside, Brighton were dominating possession throughout the first half. Especially impressive was Kazenga LuaLua. He was giving Bolton's defenders real trouble with his pace and creativity. In fact, he hit an absolute thunderbolt late in the first half that beat Adam Bogdan but ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar. Tim Ream was trying to close LuaLua down, but he was late and the former Portsmouth man managed to cut inside and create some space. That the most dangerous attacking player on the pitch was given so much room to operate on the edge of the 18-yard box gives a general idea of Bolton's defensive weaknesses.
Brighton continued to be on top in the second half and it was only a matter of time before the goal(s) came. The equalizer was from a free kick given away by Jay Spearing. It's hard to blame him for the foul though. The previous challenge from Alex Baptiste could also have been whistled, and the home side were in the process of tearing Wanderers apart on a counter attack when this happened. On the own goal, however, Spearing just couldn't get high enough to do anything but put the ball in his own net. Of course, putting one of, if not the shortest player on the pitch at the front post is asking for trouble.
That one goal was all it took for the Trotters to collapse. Inigo Calderon had loads of space when the cross came into the box. He right-footed a fairly weak bouncing shot towards the far corner. Four Wanderers players watched it slowly bound past them while Bogdan crawled around on the ground as if he had lost a contact lens. Bolton were down 2-1. But wait, there's more!
Two Brighton players ran unaccosted down the right side (Bolton's left flank) for a good sixty yards before playing a relatively sloppy one-two in the box. Will Buckley was able to get a shot off despite his Jermaine Beckford-like poor first touch. It was a decent enough finish, but Bogdan looked lost anyway.
Dougie Freedman brought Beckford, Sanmi Odelusi, and Rob Hall on to try and get back into it, but it didn't matter. The damage had been done. Another lovely Saturday had been ruined.