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Five Things: Bolton v Barnsley

Chris looks back on Saturday's thriller

Jan Kruger

Yet again, that was hard work.

Hard work to watch and hard work to sit down over the weekend and contemplate 'Five Things' that we might have gleaned from the whole enterprise.

Dougie Freedman did his tinkerman act, and unsurprisingly we got a disjointed and stuttering performance from Bolton Wanderers that could quite easily have left us sat here with no points, as opposed to three, but more on that later.

1) Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Some sources claimed, before the game, that Dougie had made six changes - others claimed that he made seven. I counted - it was six.

Out went in-form Joe Mason and in came Jermaine Beckford. Liam Trotter was moved into the centre of midfield alongside captain Jay Spearing, and Tim Ream was moved back into the centre of defence, with Alex Baptiste again being preferred at left back despite him being a) not left footed, and b) a disaster when played there before.

Now fair enough, we're at the point of this season where there is little to play for, and so changes should have been expected. However, to leave out the likes of Joe Mason and Lukas Jutkiewicz left us toothless up front. Beckford will never ever be a lone striker, and this display against Barnsley proved that.

The inclusion of super-sub Andre Moritz as a starter was again a strange choice. Moritz has proven all year long that he is a 20-minute player at best. He does not have the pace nor the stamina to last a full game and to see him in the side made my heart sink. He is the most un-Brazilian Brazilian I have ever seen, and seems to need four touches where most players require one. His contribution to the game was minimal, and should see him return to the bench for the next couple of games.

I think he's an Ivan Klasnic-type. Bring him on when defenders are tired and his lack of pace wouldn't be an issue.

With regard to the other changes, I can only presume that Freedman wanted to experiment with the likes of Trotter and Moritz before deciding to offer them extended contracts. It was also nice for Rob Hall Hall to get another run out, though it would have been nicer if he'd have taken that chance and actually played well.....but hey ho.

In closing - to quote about a thousand of these 'Five Things' pieces, it would have been nice to see a few more youngsters in the squad.

Final point - I can't help but feel Freedman must be a right joyless swine. By not or even bringing Joe Mason on in the final game of his loan spell, it was a bit mean. I've been delighted to have been proven wrong about Mason who has developed from a lad who looked scared of the ball into a positive force for the club and whose goals have been vital in keeping us from the drop.

Now, on to Alex Baptiste....

2) Poor old Alex Baptiste

I've met Alex Baptiste and have found him to be an engaging and friendly chap. I do not doubt his commitment to the Bolton Wanderers cause.

However, I felt terribly sorry for him at weekend. His manager, Dougie Freedman, chose to stick him at left back against Barnsley and we all know what went on after that. Baps gave away yet another penalty after tripping the opposition winger in the area. He tried to tackle the opponent on the 'wrong' side with his 'wrong' foot, and this caused the incident that led to the penalty.

Accidents happen, fair enough.

However, what I didn't agree with was the manager's reaction to this. He immediately told Medo Kamara to sit down, and instead brought on Zat Knight, replacing Baptiste - whose own devastation was apparent as he sat alone by the dugout.

Now, as a regular person, I cannot claim to understand much about psychology or man-management in the footballing world. However, it appears that Freedman's inspirational man-management methods are similarly limited. Whilst a large number of fans struggle to understand what he's doing - we're not "in football", after all - occasionally we're treated to an masterclass in leadership from our manager. This was another example.

With regard to the the treatment of Baptiste, following the conceding of penalty at Yeovil away, his first of the season, the manager seemed to be able to look into the future and see that he needed to take action, so he conducted a nice interview where he ripped into his full-back (his own signing, let's not forget).

To most people this seemed a bit excessive, but maybe because I'm not "in football" perhaps this was instead another example of his revolutionary approach to man-management.

Clearly this interview and its subject worked wonders, as Saturday saw Baptiste concede his third penalty in 6 games. Of course I do understand and appreciate that with each penalty, the player has made a mistake and this is something outside the manager's control, but I do apportion some blame to the manager, as for all three conceded penalties, Baptiste was being played out of position.

He was given the left-back slot against Yeovil and Barnsley, and was, for some unknown reason, being played as a defensive midfielder having been brought on as a substitute in the derby game against Wigan.

Fortunately for Bolton, all three penalties were missed.

As I discussed with my mate on Saturday, I do appreciate that we cannot go out and splash the cash on just any left-back, I do also wonder why Dougie has prioritised signing about 300 new right-backs instead of adequately replacing Marc Tierney who, let's face it, has been out for long enough for someone to come in and offer cover. Tim Ream did a decent(ish) job, but you need specialists for specialist positions and Baptiste ain't one of them.

3) Matt Mills

Another dominant performance from the bearded defender. I bet Dougie feels a right tit for considering letting the lad leave at the start of the season.

Mills was partnered by American defender Tim Ream at weekend, and it was the poorest performance from the former New York Red Bulls man - Mills carried him throughout the game and it wasn't the first time that Mills has had to cover for a weak parter. Zat Knight and David Wheater have both benefitted from Mill's improved form this season.

He should be one of the first names on the team sheet for me.

4) Adam Bogdan

I wrote last week about how Lukas Jutkiewicz would be my Player of the Season - I think Adam Bogdan is running him close.

Since his return from injury he has been a goalkeeper transformed. Gone, seemingly, is the nervous and timid goalkeeper of old - now we see him coming to collect crosses with a maturity that wasn't there before.

His new-found willingness to distribute the ball on the break is also pleasing to see.

For me, without Bogdan, we would have lost that game. Not only for his work in distracting the penalty taker, but in the saves that he made, and the saves that he made look easy.

It is often said that goalkeepers mature later than outfield players, and I think we might be starting to see the onset of maturity on the part of Bogdan.

I just hold we can keep hold of him for next season.

5) Where Do We Go From Here?

Let's not beat about the bush - that was a really strange game and one that I found really difficult to enjoy.

I don't know whether it's because I'm a little tired of Bolton Wanderers at the end of a long, hard slog of a season, or whether it's something else.

So where do we go from here?

It appears evident that we're sticking with Dougie Freedman - and credit where credit is due, he has led us to an encouraging end of season run for the second consecutive year.

What I'd like to see is a Freedman-led Bolton Wanderers (if we must keep him) actually START the season in good form. It is with this in mind that I cannot envisage the manager keeping his job if we end up having another poor start to the 2014/15 campaign. If we're not in the Play Off positions after ten games then he can collect his P45.

There is clearly going to be an exodus of players from the club (again), with the likes of Andre Moritz, Tyrone Mears and Chris Eagles the most likely candidates to leave. I think he will re-sign Zat Knight, and who knows what's going on with Stuart Holden.

It's also obvious from recent evidence that we're going to be playing in an even emptier Reebok Stadium next season, but I suppose this means it'll be easier to get out of the car park afterwards.

It's all just a bit pile of steaming 'meh'.