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Match Report: Bolton v Watford

Bolton Wanderers welcomed Watford to the Reebok Stadium in dire need of three points. Pressure had been mounting on Freedman’s Wanderers side for some weeks with as the winless streak was extended to nine games and his side unable to take points on the road or indeed at home.

Scott Heavey

David Wheater continued his re-integration back from injury as he was handed a starting berth alongside Matt Mills in the heart of The Wanderers defence in front of Adam Bogdan who has now re-secured his status as the premier goalkeeper at the club. Second time loan signing Joe Mason was thrown immediately into the breach supporting Lukas Jutkiewicz.

The game started slowly with neither team able to trouble their opposing goalkeeper, niggly fouls were frequent as the anxiety that has epitomised Bolton in recent weeks threatened to stifle their creativity once again. Bolton kept at their work and Joe Mason had two efforts on goal one of which saved smartly by former Arsenal Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Watford grew into the game and were always a threat with quality of Troy Deeney despite the close and forceful attention of Matt Mills who was looking to frustrate Deeney. With a certain pre-planned physical presence.
Despite the treat of Deeney, it was Bolton who always looked the more likely as the link up between the two forwards was supported by neat central midfield work by the 25 central midfielders deployed by Dougie Freedman.

Soon Bolton would have the lead they deserved as Jay Spearing finally beat the first man and Lukas Jutkiewicz was on hand to guide the ball home for his third goal in four games for the Wanderers. Jutkiewicz is one of the most important signings in recent times for Bolton, albeit on loan, his hold up play his absolutely critical when playing up top for Bolton in any generation, he was born to play up front for our club.

Jutkiewicz not only bridges the gap between the Wanderers midfield and attack, he also brings the best out of those around him and Joe Mason looked a completely different player and perhaps the striker the press have tried to convince us he is. Mason is a forward who uses the late runs of an attacking midfielder to create his chances and drive beyond a defensive line, with Jutkiewicz taking care of leading the line, this allowed Mason to influence the game as he naturally would and provide Bolton with real cutting edge.

It would be the on-loan Cardiff City striker who would double the Wanderers lead and by all accounts win the game before half time. Mason's left footed strike after a knock down header from substitute Neil Danns saw the Reebok Stadium lift with relief and the half time challenge capers began.

Whilst quite surprisingly not making changes immediately, Watford were soon forced into a change as Marco Cassetti was soon forced off with injury to be replaced by Daniel Pudil but it would be Bolton who would continue to pressure on their relatively tame opponents. Midfield trio Medo Kamara, Mark Davies and Neil Danns would all come close to increasing the Bolton lead.

It was almost disappointing to see how easy Bolton could pressure Watford, who really looked tactically inept and a far cry from the quality side who entertained so frequently last campaign. A further two substitions from the visiting side did nothing to stifle Bolton and the influential Jutkiewicz was denied a second by Almunia from a Bolton corner.

As the game progressed, it did open up a little as Watford finally looked to expose Bolton's largely exposed full backs. Daniel Tözsér began to become involved in the game but Bolton, through the resilience of the centre backs, Matt Mills and David Wheater combined with the agility and reflexes of Adam Bogdan, were resolute.

Bolton saw out the remaining minutes in relative comfort with notably a smart passage a play from late introduction Liam Trotter. Bolton could be relatively pleased with their afternoon's work, finally ending a winless run of nine games and keeping a much revered clean sheet. In truth, the opposition were poor and somewhat unable to adapt to the conditions of the game and against a different side, with a different manger, Bolton may have come unstuck.