Ive seen a lot of talk over the past week or so trying to pinpoint Bolton Wanderers' problem. I currently haven't come to a conclusion. It is apparent to me that the weak point is our midfield, but why? On paper this is probably our strongest area. The Whites struggle to retain possession and play creative football, failing to run forward or give opportunities to our strike force. But more on that later.
I thought the changes Dougie Freedman made were fine. Dropping Jay Spearing was a must because he's been awful. Starting arguably our most creative player Liam Feeney on the left was good. Darren Pratley & Liam Trotter in the middle is defensive, but to be expected of our defensive manager. Three youngsters, Conor Wilkinson, Chris Lester & Oscar Threlkeld all got starts.
After going 1-0 down within minutes, I feared that I may be picking a Crewe player as MOTM.
We were dire. I can't help but think our defensive approach, soaking up the oppositions possession, is simply not doing us any favours. Feeney was the only player who looked up for it in the first half (again.) He was our most creative player going forward. He must have been frustrated with his lack of support.
If it wasn't for Pratley popping up with a goal, I feared more 'Gartside out' chants. It seems whenever Pratley has been terrible, he pops up and scores a header, making us look like we know nothing.
A positive change was forced when Trotter went down injured and got replaced by Neil Danns. One of our better players this season, it changed our second half and we looked like a much more dangerous team. I've been crying out for Feeney & Danns to start together, I'm looking forward to when it happens.
For me, those two were our key players in the first 90 minutes.
Our youngsters all seemed to have a bad game which is a real shame because Dougie has given them a chance to really shine and they are just not taking the opportunity. I felt Threlkeld was 5 minutes behind, Joe Riley should be ahead of him if we are looking at youth. I didn't see much of Lester or Wilkinson, which could only be a negative.
The game played out quite similarly to the Bury game. Bolton finally woke up in the latter stages with BECKFORD scoring a last minute goal. I think he spent the first 90 minutes in the stands because I didn't see him before his well-struck volley.
Jermaine Beckford went on to score his second volley and win it for us 3-2. I think everybody including myself had completely lost hope of Beckford ever being a prolific goalscorer again... but his performance during the final minutes & extra time gives me a glimmer of hope that he could actually make an impact in the side this season.
Back to my opening point about our midfield. God could only hope Mark Davies & Stu Holden somehow make a return to the starting 11, because I think with their creativity in the middle, we would be a completely different side.
We can't keep hold of the ball at the minute - which in turn leaves our strikers without chance of scoring, but heavier pressure on our defense, who can only 'soak up' so much pressure.
Until Beckford decided to wake up and score two goals, my Man of the Match was going to Liam Feeney. But I can't really ignore the fact that he scored two decent volleys, which in the end won us the game.
The reason I make my point about the midfield, is that maybe our strikers just need better service?
With Beckford scoring two I see him starting the next game with Joe Mason. We will see what happens... hopefully he can kick on with a shed load of goals.