On the back of three straight victories and a rich vein of goal scoring form which has boasted eleven strikes from no fewer than seven different players, a resurgent Bolton Wanderers made the trip to Pride Park to face third placed Derby County in what, on paper, would be a tricky test against Schteve McLaren's promotion hopefuls.
Now, when I was sat in the beer garden of the Thomas Burke in Leigh at 1 pm enjoying a crisp, refreshing pint in the glorious spring sunshine, someone had offered me a nil nil draw, I would have happily taken your pro offered hand, shook it vigorously and made my way back to the bar for a half to celebrate another point and another clean sheet. Make no bones about it; in the context of this Championship season as a whole, this is a cracking result for Bolton Wanderers.
So the question is; why am I feeling a major sense of disappointment at the final result? For a start, only table topping Leicester City have scored more goals than Derby County in the division and our bingo ball selected bunch of misfits in defence managed to keep them at bay relatively comfortably.
Derby only created one meaningful, clear cut; you'd expect to score chance in the 90 minutes. Luckily it fell to Conor Salmon, the useless lump who decided that rather than ripping the back of Bogdan's net, he would kindly roll the ball tamely into his grasp. Other than that it was just pop shots from range which were for the most part wayward or the back four managed to defend everything pretty well.
I think the problem for the majority of the travelling fans was that we have been spoiled with nine goals in the last two games. This meant that for some fans, anything other than being 67-0 up after four minutes was unacceptable and negative. I was more disappointed that we didn't offer that much going forward; went 4-2-3-1 fairly early in the second half and ended up finishing the game playing with a 5-5-0.
I, like everyone, was shocked to see that Joe Mason had been omitted from the starting XI, but if, as has been reported since, he was feeling unwell then I'm glad because playing him could have done more damage to our chances over the remainder of the season. I don't for one minute after the results that we have been having think Dougie Freedman would have been stupid enough to drop him otherwise.
Some of you will probably think I'm naïve for saying this but I don't believe he would have changed that winning formula unless he had too. David Wheater also picked up a knock towards the end of the Leeds United match and I would guess that this was also the reason that he did not start. I would personally have left Tim Ream at left back and shuffled Alex Baptiste into the centre alongside Zat Knight. This is mainly due to my belief that Clinton is a liability defensively in either of the full back positions.
The reshuffle up top showed that at the moment, our squad is a finite resource and an injury or suspension here and there can have dramatic consequences on our attacking prowess. Had Jermaine Beckford been available last night, he would have come straight in for Mason and the system would not have changed. Andre Moritz was brought in to partner Lukas Jutkiewicz but due his natural instincts as a player, kept dropping deeper than I believe he was supposed to and apart from stinging the palms of Lee Grant with a thunderous drive, was largely anonymous.
The Juke and Mark Davies also struggled to have the same impact on this game that they have been having over the last few outings which again, stunted our attacking prowess but after the way they have been playing, I'm happy to allow them an off day.
I'd also like to know what has happened to Liam Trotter. The one I'd previously seen play for Facking Millwall was big, strong, athletic; a dynamic presence in the centre of the park. Since his arrival at the Reebok, Delboy has looked slow, cumbersome, like he is running in treacle whilst wearing lead boots and the game is passing him by. I hope he shows improvement quickly because I fear he is being written off and consigned to the annals of a Danny Butterfield, Gerald Cid, an Ariza Makakula level of signing by the majority of fans.
So, in summary, a point and a clean sheet away from home at the team occupying third place in the division is an excellent result but, given that we are probably safe in the division and have no chance of making the play offs, we could have taken more of a risk and chased the victory. With the substitutions that Freedman made, we went to Pride Park for a point and achieved our aim. Unfortunately the most entertaining part of the evening was a drunken @LeytherMatt making a song up about Derby's biscuit tin posing as a drum.