I haven't been to an away game since Ipswich took the piss out of us at the start of November, but I'm very happy I made the 45 minute journey across London to see a valiant Wanderers side battle for a point on Tuesday night.
We started slowly. When I say slowly, I mean, I've seen paint dry faster. Charlton were 1-0 up inside the first minute after Jay Spearing gave the ball away in midfield. The resulting counter attack allowed the home side to play about three or four passes before former Bolton donkey Ricardo Vaz Te fired a ball across the box and 18-year-old forward Ademola Lookman slotted under Ben Amos with ease.
The Bolton end was stunned. I was literally stood there open-mouthed. Surely this couldn't be happening to us? Ah, on second thoughts, of course it could - we're Bolton Wanderers.
We tried our best to regroup and give it another go, but even Stevie Wonder could see we were struggling. Moxey was having a stinker at left-back. Holding was a shadow of the player we rolled out against Hull last weekend. The returning Zach Clough looked far from match fit and a yard off the pace. It seemed as though Jay Spearing had left his unmissable spud head in the dressing room. It's safe to say, ladies and gents, that we were an absolute shit show.
After a fairly flat first 25 minutes with clear cut chances few and far between since the opening goal, Dean Moxey committed one of his trademark hot-headed fouls and conceded a needless free-kick. We regrouped, but the left-back seemed to switch off - failing to close Ricardo Vaz Te down and allowing the 29-year-old (can you believe he's that old?!) to cross from the right hand side of the 18 yard box into a congested area. After an initial strike was blocked, Lookman was there again to slam home and punish us for the second time with just over a quarter of the game gone.
"Fuck. We're going down." I thought to myself as we restarted play. It looked like an uphill task from there, that was until (and I can't believe I'm saying this) some brilliant work from Liam Feeney down the right flank allowed him space to cut inside and whip a left-footed cross into the danger area. Then, like a coiled viper, one Emile Heskey struck - stroking the ball home with a one touch finish, rolling back the years and giving us all a glimmer of hope. Game on!
As half time approached I was beginning to think about queueing for my obligatory away day pint in the pissing rain (if you've never been to The Valley, the one and only kiosk that serves food and drink to away fans is outside - how 1982) and wondering what Lennon was going to say to his troops at the interval. Alas, on the stroke of half time a low cross from Zach Clough was poorly cleared by The Addicks. The loose ball trickled out to the 25-yard mark and up stepped Josh Vela with an Ivan Campo-esque daisy cutter; the ball skipping up off the wet turf and nestling beautifully into the bottom corner, sending the away end into raptures. Vela ran the length of the pitch and celebrated with several fist pumps, galvanising the Wanderers fans even more. Let's fucking have it.
I went for my pint and nearly spilled the first mouthful down my front in disbelief. From 2-0 down to 2-2 in 45 minutes? Are you sure this is Bolton Wanderers we're talking about? Madness.
We came out after the break looking like a completely different side. Moxey took a knock on the stroke of half time but it must've rattled his brains around a bit because he looked like a new player. Spearing was tenacious as ever in the middle of the park, fighting for every ball. Vela, his central midfield partner for the evening, was absolutely outstanding - pinging balls around like an experienced pro. We looked solid; Price & Wheater were holding the line well and Feeney was causing problems on the right hand side. I, and a lot of other Wanderers fans in attendance, genuinely believed this was our night.
Little happened in the initial 20 minutes of the second half. My accumulator looked shot and we looked stable, fending off the feeble attacking efforts of the home side without many issues. On the 70-minute mark, Jay Spearing was booked for a cynical challenge on Jordan Cousins in the centre circle and Neil Danns was sent to warm up. It hadn't really been Spearing's night - the captain had grown into the game but had been largely outshone by his younger midfield counterpart. I expected the Scouse Pirlo to get the hook, that was until Josh Vela was hacked down inside the Bolton half and ultimately stretchered off. Bollocks. He was genuinely having a brilliant game in midfield; just our luck that he'll end up on the treatment table come Wednesday morning. According to friend of the site Marc Iles, he's jarred his knee, so it's not too serious. Let's hope he makes a speedy recovery.
Neil Dannes replaced the aforementioned Josh Vela and we looked set to bed in and settle for a draw. Shortly after the substitution, a Charlton corner was deflected through a crowd of bodies and up onto the Bolton crossbar. I very nearly shit myself, I can tell you that for free, as three sides of The Valley stood up to cheer what they thought was a goal. The obligatory "Wheeeeeey" from the away end soon sorted that out, though.
There were good chances for Clough and Gary Madine, Goal Machine (who replaced Heskey in the second half) but the game petered out into nothing, sadly ending our hopes of a real Tuesday evening smash-and-grab.
The opening 25 minutes of the game were truly abysmal on Tuesday night, but the travelling fans (of whom there were 415, including myself and Lion of Vienna Suite's very own @robilaz) were absolutely fantastic. Lennon continues to bang the same drum in his pre and post match interviews, saying how great the fans are and how they can really help the club get out of this rough patch. The cynic in me tells him to fuck off and concentrate on terminating Stephen Dobbie's contract, but on Tuesday night I really believed him. The mood in the away end made me proud to be a Bolton fan, and the belief that's there is properly astounding, considering the position our beloved club is in.
Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, this is your call to arms: Support Bolton Wanderers Football Club with everything you've got, because together, we are one big family that can truly make a difference.
Over and out.