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5 Things We Learned: Watford v Bolton Wanderers

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Bolton went to Watford and were quite simply blown away by the attacking prowess of their superior opponents. After a disappointing start, what did we learn from our first game of the 2014/2015 season?

Darren Pratley after his 63rd foul of the first half
Darren Pratley after his 63rd foul of the first half
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We need Andy Loner-gone

Andy Lonergan is not good enough for our division, never mind our starting line up. The goalkeeper could have perhaps of done better with all three goals conceded and is particularly culpable for the first goal where his indecision set the tone for the Bolton Wanderers defence for the rest of the game.

A theme of preseason was how ‘settled’ the back four was with Lonergan behind them but yesterday the discomfort was palpable and was summed up perfectly when after Lonergan’s error for Deeney’s goal, Ream approached Lonergan but said nothing to him. Team spirit or spineless?

Either way, I don’t care if Bogdan wants to leave or not, I would rather have him in net and running out his contract than let Lonergan cost us another game.

We cannot rely on Tim Ream

American defender Tim Ream was one of the few positives of last season. The much-maligned defender saw a successful move out to left back and was a vote for many as our ‘Player of the Season.’

The improved performances saw the trust of the Bolton Management and fans regained and Ream was returned to his preferred position of centre-back for the game and it did not take long for the old Tim to return and it could not have happened against a better strike force at this level.

Ream appears to struggle with responsibility. When the American is out wide and mistakes are not as frequently punished, he thrives and expresses himself and his style of play is particularly pleasing on the eye.

However it seems that whenever the former New York Red Bulls Defender is deployed in the centre, the added pressure and responsibility causes him to ‘lock up’ and when you’re playing against players like Matej Vydra and Troy Deeney, you are going to get found out.

I once told our founding father at Lion of Vienna Suite, Mark Yesilevskiy, that Tim Ream was the worst central defender that Bolton had consistently played in my memory, Saturday reminded me of the reasons I made that claim.

Tactics and Ability

Even after quite a few pints in the very accommodating Watford Wetherspoons, I started to see for the first time what Freedman is trying to achieve with his ‘style of play’ and tactics. Many times on this particular piece (if I can wrestle it from Chris Manning) I have complained that I could not get a sense of what we are trying to do.

Yesterday I saw it and I must admit this mismatch between the system and those trying to implement it scared me a great deal.

The general focus if for us to open the pitch up by our highly positioned wingers and loan frontman which can allow Jay Spearing the opportunity to receive the ball as deep as possible so he in turn can find our ‘number 10’ who after dropping 5/10 yards would find himself in the space and the options of one of our ‘front three’.

On paper, I quite like this idea. This system I think it would be particularly effective against traditional 4-4-2 systems, like our opponents Watford FC implemented yesterday. Football isn’t played on paper and we were pulled apart and beaten 3-0, so what was the problem?

For me, the answer is simple, the players who at the heart of this system simply do not have the skill sets required to perform the tasks. Jay Spearing is a very good defensive midfielder, but his passing is not his strongest point and when under pressure, will move the ball wide instead of lifting his head and looking for options, the amount of times he needless fired the ball out of play from central midfield demonstrates his weakness in this area.

Also our surrogate Mark Davies, Darren Pratley simply does not fit the bill. If he is not giving away needless fouls, he is moving himself out wide and not making himself available for Spearing, Kamara and frequently the exposed Dean Moxey to receive the ball. It was a very poor performance for Pratley and for me we do need to be looking into the loan market for some adequate cover for the forever-crocked Mark Davies.

The New Boys

It was not a day to remember for Dougie Freedman’s selected new recruits. Dean Moxey started as expected at left-back and struggled from the off as he looked particularly exposed with options appearing to disappear as soon as the former Crystal Palace defender received the ball.

In truth, it was a baptism of fire for the defender as he often found himself as a third centre-back as Ream was being pulled from pillar to post by the Watford front two. I’m sure we will see much better from Moxey and I do believe we will have healthy competition in that area from Moxey, Marc Tierney and Tim Ream.

Perhaps the most concerning thing regarding Moxey is the injury that forced him off in the second half, the last thing we want is more injured left-backs this season as we all know how hard it was to get one last season.

Moxey’s withdrawal saw the introduction of fellow defensive new signing, Dorian Dervite. There are high expectations at the Marcon Stadium of the former Tottenham Hotspur and Villarreal man signed on a free from Charlton this summer.

Dervite had an afternoon to forget with his two only real contributions being firstly blitzed by Watford substitute Fernando Forestieri as he slotted in the Watford third goal. Dervite also nodded a free header over the bar as Wanderers searched for a consolation in a game they probably will want to forget quickly.

Needless to say, Freedman will be looking for a lot more from his new recruits.

Match Experience

With technology and computers and all that, the definition of what we define, the match day experience is changing dramatically. Sport is now a place of interactive debate where journalist, fans and even genius bloggers such as yours truly can discuss the events live.

Yesterday was my first experience of having 4G available at a football game and it did allow to not only see the feedback of the fans at home but also what the various journalists were making of our performance as it was happening.

The speed at which the service operated made me want to use it and to try and involve the people not at the game to get a sense of the atmosphere at RoadI am very pleased that the club have recognised the importance of this and addressed the issue regarding phone signal in the ground and introduced the app which allows fans to access information from within The Macron Stadium.

I look forward to Tuesday night that I can vent my alcohol-fuelled frustration at every conceded goal or even wayward pass.