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5 Things: Bolton v Wigan

After another entertaining derby clash with the Wigan Warriors, what exactly did we learn?

Clint Hughes

1) Rob Hall seizing the moment

After what has been a difficult season for the young winger, Hall was handed a rare opportunity from the start.

After turning his back on life fighting for a place in the Premier League at West Ham, Rob Hall would of felt he would see a significantly higher amount of game time this season than he has, particularly after his impressive pre-season. 
From previous performances this season, it is pretty clear as to why Freedman has not utilised Hall as often as previously anticipated, he is a long way from the finished product, struggling defensively and also being bullied by opposition players, his short passing ability is also lacking.

Saturday was an opportunity that Hall took with both hands.

The winger was particularly effective when coming inside and running at Wigan's often exposed central defensive partnership. Hall's set piece delivery is also exceptional and particularly valuable as he is left-footed. It is no surprise that Bolton's goal came from his delivery and it could have easily provided further goals as it created numerous chances.

Hall has been heavily linked with a loan move away from the Reebok Stadium, I would be very pleased to see this done and allow him to develop the obvious flaws in his game, that or  an extra few hours in the gym (or KFC).

2) Experience where it counts

Since arriving in somewhat low-key fashion on loan from Aston Villa, Alan Hutton has provided some real stability in the right-back position, a position that historically has been a weak point of most Bolton teams of the modern era.

Hutton has taken up the torch that was left  when Kevin McNaughton returned  to Cardiff City after completing his extended loan spell.

Hutton successfully stifled a lot of attacking threat that Wigan possessed as he completely nullified Wigan Athletic winger and all round great guy James McLean. Hutton's dominance was not lost on Wigan manager Uwe Rosler either who chose to deploy star player Callum McManaman on the left wing in an attempt to have some presence over there. Freedman indicated in his programme notes that Hutton's loan has been extended which I'm sure will boost his team-mates and fans alike.

3) Putting the Pie to the Sword

Bolton Wanderers should have won this game, it is that simple.

A home-win against Wigan was possibly the remaining meaningful  achievement for Bolton to play for this season and they have thrown it away. Whilst Bolton have improved dramatically defensively as the season has gone on, there is no way Freedman should be looking to rely on a one goal lead against a side full of quality like Wigan Athletic are.

Bolton can only look to the host of chances which they failed to convert as the reason they did not come out of the game with the three points they should have. Whilst former Bolton goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi was solid in the Wigan goal, you felt Bolton lacked the conviction required to make the win safe and most efforts were tame, although well-directed.

The final nail in the coffin was the inexplicable introduction of Alex Baptiste into central midfield. Baptiste's form has only just recovered since what happened to him in the corresponding fixture at The Dave Whelan Stadium.

It was evident immediately the Baptiste was both uncomfortable and out of his depth in the position and the opposition knew it as the influential Nick Powell and Callum McManaman exploited the static movement of Baptiste and began to pressurise Bolton, who until that point had looked in control of the game.

I find it strange that with the abundance of central midfielders we have had all season, the decision has been made now to send out Josh Vela on loan now and for us to make-do with players playing out of position in what is perhaps our biggest game of the season.

But what do I know ...

4) Bogdan the Brave

Adam Bogdan enjoys a mixed reputation among Bolton fans, for some he is a liability that looks incredibly shaky and prone to error at any moment, there are some, myself included that believe we have a fantastic goalkeeper who he continues to improve and ranks among the best in the league, particularly with his shot stopping and defending corners.

Saturday provided Adam Bogdan with perhaps his most important moment in a Bolton Wanderers shirt as he saved magnificently from a well struck Jordi Gomez to deny Wigan Athletic a famous double over their rivals and salvage some positivity from the game.

I certainly understand those who do not rate Adam Bogdan and certainly there are examples that can be pointed to when discussing his weaknesses, what cannot be denied is the Hungarians form since returning from injury, many point to the fact  Andy Lonergan was briefly installed as number one, but I'm not sure the form of Lonergan was good enough to inspire anything. Either way, it is good to see the best of Adam Bogdan.

5) What Now?

With the last remaining meaningful game having been played, what now in terms of the rest of the season for Bolton Wanderers, what should be a realistic target for us to achieve?

We are seven points off a top half finish, this would seem to be a little beyond us given our return on points so far this season so perhaps we should be looking at performance based targets, namely clean sheets.

If from now until the end of the season we can keep clean sheets in half of our games I would consider it a success and an actual foundation for us to build last season. It would also be wise for us to experiment with some of our younger players and expose them to some first team action, given that the pressure and expectation is going to be less of an issue.

Perhaps off loading some of the dead weight in terms of the squad may be prudent as well.

With the pressure off and the conditions to promote youth being in place, we could off load fringe players on higher wages as a cost cutting measure and help free up some loan wages which could be invaluable come next season.