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Match Report: Bolton v Leicester

The streak is over!

Michael Regan

Bolton Wanderers welcomed league leaders and (soon to be) Champions Leicester City to the Reebok Stadium on Tuesday night, with both clubs in reasonably good form, each picking up nineteen points in their last ten games.

The team news was announced to great surprise from the Bolton fans as the youth was finally given a chance, with Hayden White starting the game and several youngsters on the bench, and also because Bolton started with three centre-backs across the back and with two wing backs, my dream coming true in the process.

Leicester boss Nigel Pearson started his strongest possible line up, indicating that there was no way he was going to let the Championship title slip from his grasp.

The sides entered the fray sporting black arm bands as a special request from Chung-Yong Lee, to respect the people who have lost their lives in the Korean Ferry Disaster, and with that, the game got underway.

Leicester began the game brightly and had the majority of the early possession, with Andy King's effort from the edge of the area going wide via a deflection.

Bolton responded with good work from the rejuvenated Liam Trotter, whose powerful run and clever pass sent through Lukas Jutkiewicz, but his tame effort from an acute angle was saved easily by Kasper Schmeichel.

The Foxes continued to press however, with winger Riyad Mahrez being a constant thorn in the Whites' side. The Frenchmen's shot from a tight angle had Bogdan beaten, but not David Wheater, who cleared the ball off the line.

Mahrez continued to worry the Bolton back line with his pace and trickery, he got the better of Hayden White to cross the ball into the box, but David Nugent could only head over.

The highly impressive Danny Drinkwater, the much improved since I lost saw him play Ritchie De Laet and Andy King all saw efforts from outside the area either blocked or go wide as Leicester continued to push for their title victory, but the five man Bolton defence proved resilient.

Former Manchester United man Danny Drinkwater's rasping thirty yard drive was then expertly averted by Adam Bogdan, who was having a great game between the sticks.

Leicester's expensive Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez then tried his luck from distance but his effort sailed wide of the post.

Bolton's defence continued to hold firm, but I couldn't help but feel disappointed with the way we had set out: with playing five at the back I had thought that that would mean the fullbacks would be pushing up the pitch to pressure Leicester and attack, I thought we'd go for it more.

Nope. I was quite wrong.

Instead they all sat back, gave Leicester all the time in the world on the ball, left Jay Spearing and Trotter exposed and Jutkiewicz hopelessly isolated. Sighs.

There was a scare in the Bolton box on the cusp of half-time, as Knight nearly put the ball into the back of his own net after an awkward defensive header from a corner, luckily the ball bounced into the ground and off the cross bar. With another Bogdan save from the resulting corner, the half came to a close.

Former Fox Jermaine Beckford, came on to a chorus of boos at halftime, for White, which I felt was a bit harsh, he'd applied himself well in the first half against a tough opponent, in a position he's probably less used to (wing-back is a bit different to full-back), whilst getting absolutely no protection from Lee.

The move saw Matt Mills slot in at right back, which in no way would possibly come back to haunt us.

Leicester continued the second half as they had ended the first, dominant. Ritchie De Laet stormed past three Bolton defenders with an excellent burst of pace, before seeing his cutback to Nugent sliced wide of the goal.

Another French winger, this time Anthony Knockaert then stung the palms of Bogdan, with a well struck shot after cutting in from the right.  Followed by the winger appealing heavily for a penalty as Tim Ream appeared to handle his scooped pass in the area. Nothing given.

Bolton managed to come into the game a bit themselves, with their best chances of the game. The rather wasteful Lee actually managed to control the ball and do something useful with it, as he somehow got himself into the box through three challengers and found Jutkiewicz, but the striker could only hit it wide.

Juke then squandered a glorious chance telling us it certainly was not his day. Beckford's defence splitting past released Juke and he held off a Leicester defender brilliantly as he advanced into the box after taking a wonderful touch, but he dragged his shot wide of the upright. A miss that was destined to punish us.

Sure enough, from the resulting goal kick, Leicester went up the other end and scored in emphatic, title-winning fashion. Chris Wood retrieved the monster of a kick and fed the ball to Lloyd Dyer who cut inside from the the left, and hit a thunderous twenty-five yard shot into the top right corner, which made the Leicester fans quite happy.

Bolton did not let the goal deter them and they did go about finding an equaliser: Beckford flashed a left footed volley from eighteen yards wide; Jutkiewicz again failed to score from close range as he was denied by a smart save from Schmeichel, after being teed up by Hall - Beckford then saw his weak effort saved after good work from Lee and Juke.

Fellow youngsters Andy Kelley and Chris Lester (whose name was met with cheers from the Leicester fans) then both entered the pitch for their senior debuts, which was my personal highlight of the game. It was great to finally see their handwork and good form in the U21's finally get some recognition from the management, and hopefully we see them and more before the season's out. It is a shame, however, that the senior pros refused to pass to them at nearly every opportunity.

Kellet did very well with the little amount of the ball he did see but I don't think Lester even got a touch. Matt Mills thought it would be more productive to smash the ball aimlessly forward to a blue shirt, rather than pass it to the youngster which was somewhat dispiriting.

Bogdan made another great save to deny Leicester doubling their lead, this time from New Zealand international Wood, after a good forward run from Matty James.

The game then, much like Bolton's season, proceeded to fade into nothing, as a series of hopeless long balls found not a single white shirt, with only the promise of a pitch invasion keeping me in my seat.

The whistle blew to delirious roars and cheers, but sadly no pitch invasion, as Leicester City were crowned champions. My full congratulations go out to them, a very good team and worthy winners of the prize.

But as I walked out of The Reebok and over the hill to the car, I couldn't help but feel heavy hearted and let down with the thoughts that it really could have been us celebrating, we really should have been up there fighting for promotion this year. Instead we're relinquishing in disappointment.

Always next year, eh?