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5 Things: Bolton Wanderers v Nottingham Forest

Our first point of the season - Chris has five topics of discussion

Paul Thomas

1) Jay Spearing

The little pocket Gollum has been off-form for ages. Perhaps even since he rejoined the club from Liverpool.

Against Nottingham Forest he was as bad as he has ever been. He was as bad as Lee Chung-Yong was good, which is a positive.

Can we honestly look at his performance since coming back and be able to pinpoint a game in which he's dominated midfield and looked like the Spearing of old?

It's getting very worrying.

From his lack of quality on the ball, to his 'hiding' from it when not in possession, he's started to add recklessness in the tackle to the charge-sheet.

His decision to scythe down the impressive Britt Assombalonga when the player was heading away from our goal to a position of relative safety remains baffling. His pathetic scrambling and downright LYING to the referee that the offence occurred outside the box was unedifying and conduct not befitting of a captain of Bolton Wanderers.

I'll give him one minor release from my moaning in that it all came from Craig Davies' inability to hold the ball up, with the subsequent attack coming from the turnover of possession.

The trouble with a manager picking his favourite as captain means that often his place is unassailable regardless of the incumbent's form. It happened with Kevin Nolan during the latter stages of his Bolton career. Often the player was picked when he shouldn't have been.

We have enough problems in midfield without keeping passengers - and at the moment Spearing is a passenger who is becoming a hindrance. He was lucky to stay on the field too - had he been booked for the challenge on Assombalonga, it would have made his subsequent reckless challenge two minutes later lead to the first red of his Bolton career.

Andy Reid gave a masterclass in midfield play. The podgy little chap ran the show and was imperious on the ball with barely a wasted pass to his name.

Take note, Jay.

2) The Manager's Intransigence

Maybe I should re=title this bit "Reluctance to Use Substitute" - singular. Poor Liam Feeney. The only player to earn a mark above 1/10 for the Bury game was left kicking his heels on the bench whilst Darren Pratley was again given a chance despite his own inexplicable form.


We should have won the game. Make no bones about it.

The first half belonged to us, despite the 2-2 scoreline following the goals from Joe Mason and David Wheater. Wanderers then took a fairly typical second half approach and dropped back. Dropped deep.

We allowed Forest to attack us, and looked vulnerable. It was apparent to everyone in the world that Wanderers were incredible narrow, with the midfield diamond meaning that we almost entirely without width. We had no outlet and no way of relieving pressure.

The midfield diamond of Danns, Medo, LCY and Spearing wasn't working. Medo being a particular culprit.

We desperately needed the manager to bring on Liam Feeney - with Medo my choice for replacement. Did anyone else see McNaughton on his one run past the defender and think "Feeney could do that every time"?

Alas, Dougie's natural caution saw him, in his infinite wisdom, bring on Pratley (with Trotter to follow after).

We had been in the ascendancy, but lost all momentum in the second half. Although as mentioned above, Andy Reid dominated midfield and much of the possession, Forest failed to trouble Adam Bogdan.

With a more adventurous manager then I think Bolton Wanderers could have earned more from the game.

The predictable nature of the starting side is beginning to become a concern - Tim Ream, Medo, Spearing....I know we're not blessed with the deepest squad but surely they're hanging on to their starting XI spots by the thinnest of threads.

3) Paucity of Striking Choices

Craig Davies - God love him. He's a trier.

Today was one of his better performances for Bolton Wanderers, but it evoked memories of his namesake Kevin. Craig Davies had lots of the ball, and won lots of aerial balls with his combative style - but he came about as close to scoring as did Adam Bogdan.

He also missed the chance of the game, when Kevin McNaughton's sole attacking run in the second half led to a glorious cross to the Welshman who just six yard out plonked his header into the North Lower.

Joe Mason, more of whom later, had an up and down game, but looked more like the Mason of 2013, than the one that we need - the 2014 version. Despite that, he scored his seventh goal in just 10 games for Bolton.

Jermaine Beckford was stood on the sidelines from the 85th minute to the 88th when he was finally introduced. The man can do no right, but his performance in that couple of minutes was without incident.

We have two weeks left of the transfer window and we need at LEAST one striker. Two would be nice.

We obviously cannot go out and splash the cash as Stuart Pearce has at Nottingham Forest. Assombalonga cost upwards of £5.5m according to reports, and he showed that mean streak with two good goals. A lethal finish from inside the six yard box and a well-struck penalty highlighted his quality.

We need to search high and low for the striker to suit us because unless we do then we cannot hope to aim higher than lower to mid-table.

4) Pros and Cons of Kevin McNaughton

He's a funny old player.

The Bury game showed that Oscar Threlkeld isn't ready - and this probably helped McNaughton's case in that he be selected for the Forest fixture.

He's clearly a steady and stable influence at the back, but this is at the detriment of our attacking options.

He's no Danny Butterfield, but his lack of willingness to get forward has to be put down to the fact that the lad is slow, and would struggle to get back in position should he become stranded upfield. Further evidence that Feeney should be playing, for me, but hey ho.

McNaughton had a solid game, and kept Forest's wide men at bay, but it would have been nicer had he offered more going forward. He had one good overlapping run which led to the above-mentioned Craig Davies sitter.

He's clearly confident on the attack and so I can only believe that his lack of desire comes from a physical aspect, rather than anything tactical.

It's a minor gripe, but any help for the attackers is useful to us.

5) Joe Mason: Enigma

I don't know what to think about Joe Mason.

I respect the opinion of our mate Marc Iles at the BEN, who twitterised:

However, I think it's a stretch to call Mason's performance 'terrific'.

He started the game in the vein of the Mason of 2013. The weak and timid attacker who was easily bullied out of the game.

Granted, he scored a neat header, but I am struggling to remember him having a kick after that.

That said, looking back now he's scored seven times in his last ten Wanderers outings and that is nothing to be sniffed at. I would much rather have a regular scorer who is making little impact elsewhere than someone like Elmander who was a jack of all trades, and master of none.

So Joe Mason is here for the season, and the award of the #9 shirt to the lad is a clear sign of Dougie Freedman's confidence on him. I think he's got potential, but at the same time I can see him being a source of frustration.

It's clearly important that we bring someone in to do the donkey work for Mason, because he's got all the upper body strength of one of the My Little Ponies, and I'm still unconvinced about his technical ability. His first touch against Forest was reminiscent of Mr J Beckford.

A reasonable third debut for the lad, but only a 6 out of 10 from me. That said - overall we're a better side with him, than without.