In a match that felt like the most scripted game of FIFA ever, Bolton Wanderers finally managed to score a last minute goal of their own as Eidur Gudjohnsen did, what so many had failed to do previously, and smashed the ball into the back of the net at the death.
Bolton somehow managed to be simultaneously awful, but should have won the game 7-2. Even in the first half when the team's performance was well below par, it took several saves from Blackpool goalkeeper Joe Lewis to keep his team in the lead. He wasn't needed as much in the second half though because, despite Bolton's massive up turn in quality after the break in terms of creating chances, they only hit the target on a select few.
The attacking football on display at times was actually a real joy to watch and we haven't created as many chances like that in god knows how long, but our finishing was beyond frustrating. And with our porous midfield and clumsy defence behind the attack, it led to a nerve wracking game.
It took Bolton 95 minutes and 22 shots on goal before Eidur showed everyone how it was done and saved the team from a very embarrassing defeat.
Here's how the players did:
Ben Amos - 5
It's a shame that Amos' last game at the Macron (at least for now) was probably his worst game in the luminous green jersey. He looked shaky throughout, especially on corners when he'd come out to catch or clear the ball but would only get a frail punch on it. So whilst he didn't have too much to content with from Blackpool, his all round game was no where near as composed or dominating as we've come to expect.
Josh Vela - 6
Somewhat against the consensus, I thought Josh Vela wasn't very good against Blackpool. In the first half especially his positioning was all over the place, allowing Blackpool's left sided player to get in behind, but that's never been a strong point of Vela's game. Going forward with the ball is however, and I didn't think he was up to his usual high standards in this regard either. He looked tired on the ball at times and over hit the ball out of play on a few occasions. However, his gut-busting back tracking has to be admired. On one occasion specifically he sprinted the length of the pitch and made a wonderful sliding tackle to halt the advancing attacker.
Matt Mills - 4
It was crazy how reckless Mills was at times during the game, he's become extremely prone of charging out of the back line in attempt to win the ball as of late and whilst it's all very good when he pulls of an extravagant interception, it leaves gaping holes in the Bolton backline. Holes that will be exploited by better sides. I like Mills, I really do, but his form has dropped off massively in the last month and he's not been the solid, dependable rock in the defence that he has been for most of the season. Maybe it's down to tiredness, maybe it's down to not being able to build a consistent partnership. What ever the reason, it needs to change.
Paddy McCarthy - 5
The on-loan Crystal Palace defender has been excellent since he arrived at the club, well, that was until yesterday. Against Blackpool he no longer looked like the commanding, no nonsense defender, he looked like, to quote Mr Manning's five things piece: "a journeyman centre half clogger". And he did. He was slow and heavy footed on the ball, unaware of his surroundings as he was caught out by a Blackpool attacker at least twice and he was just generally not as solid as he has been in recent games. He did make some good tackles at points, but he was a lot less steady than he usually is.
Tim Ream - 5
I'm yet to see highlights of the game, so I'm not completely certain what happened for Blackpool's goal, but it was down Ream's side where Jacobs ran through unopposed and smashed the ball past Amos. So one presumes... Ream lived up to a lot of the haterz claim him to be against Blackpool, he was weak and clumsy in the challenge, poor positionally and didn't offer much on the ball going forward. He did have me in bits, however, when not once, not twice, but three times he came relatively close to scoring. It will happen one day, I know it.
Liam Feeney - 3
Sigh. I can't defend him anymore, I don't have it in me. Once again, Feeney was not very good. I don't need to point out to you his one trick, as I'm sure you're well accustomed to it, but yeah, he has one trick. Can't even do that right most of the time. Thing is, Feeney has been very good at points this season, but in recent weeks he, like others, has gone massively off the boil and just doesn't look like the same player. It was summed up best for me when he was given a good thirty yards of open space to run into and shoot on goal, and he ran it too far. Infuriating.
Neil Danns - 5
It was very apparent that Danns has flown half way across the world and back in the last couple of weeks. Whilst the defensive side of his game was solid enough, as he cleaned up loose ends a few times, his time on the ball was very typical of Danns at the minute. He never dawdled on the ball for too long and lost it, to his credit, but his first touch was often too heavy and his passing was often very simple and unadventurous. It's a real shame, because Danns was excellent from when Lennon came in to his red card against Liverpool, and he just hasn't been the same player since.
Barry Bannan - 8
Despite missing the easiest chance he'll ever get at scoring in a Bolton shirt, as he placed a shot gloriously wide of the open net, he was still fantastic in the middle of the park. He was all over the pitch and was our only real outlet when it came to moving the ball forward in an actual meaningful way. This was epitomised best when he won the back with a perfectly timed sliding tackle and with his next movement hit a wonderful 50 odd yard pass that landed right at the feet of Le Fondre and led to a great chance. His movement on the ball and his ability to slide players in was prominent too. How I hope we sign him in the summer.
Tom Walker - 8
That was Tom Walker's best performance yet in the Bolton first team. In his three games prior to Saturday's tie he's been forced to play in a more restricted role at left wing back, but against Blackpool he was deployed on the wing and his attacking ability shone through. He was able to showcase his surprisingly quick pace, determination and crossing ability on numerous occasions. He especially stood out in the first half when most of his team mates were playing dreadfully, as he was our biggest threat with his great crosses over from the right, that should have been capitalised on.
Rochinha - 5
The young Portuguese was quite anonymous against Blackpool, aside from some dazzling flicks in the opening stages, he saw very little of the ball. Now, a part of that is his sleight stature and he was easily brushed aside off the ball at times, but I think another factor of that is that his team mates just don't get him on the ball enough. When ever he has it at his feet it looks like something could happen, and I really hope we see more of him.
Adam Le Fondre - 7
I've often bemoaned the lack of service that Le Fondre receives whilst playing upfront for Bolton, as it renders him invisible for a lot of the game, but against Blackpool he was more involved in play than he's ever been for the Whites. All game long he was harassing the defenders with never-relenting pressure and his intelligent runs were causing them all kinds of problems. ALF was constantly peeling away from the centre back to create space and Bannan was constantly picking him out with long balls over the top, if Le Fondre was playing with someone who had the capability of finishing he'd have had about three assists against Blackpool.
Emile Heskey - 6
Certainly changed the game upon his introduction, as he offered a solid target for the long passes and was always able to bring the ball down and hold it up. His hold up play is almost unmatched, alas, his finishing ability is still the but of the jokes. In the dying minutes he somehow missed a header about a yard out from goal, but thankfully the ball somehow landed at Gudjohnsen's feet who swept it home.
Craig Davies - 5
He's not the same player anymore. Gone is the bustling, energetic, half-deadly striker that some even likened to Kevin Davies when at the top of his game, and back is the slow, cumbersome striker who is really ineffective. He offered very little once he was introduced, and I think Monday's game against Cardiff, where Le Fondre will be unavailable, will be his last chance.
Eidur Gudjohnsen - 7
It's been quite the week for Eidur Gudjohnsen. He scored the opening goal on his return to the national team, became a father again and then rescued his club side at the death with an emphatic late equaliser. There's not much else to say as he saw very little of the ball aside from his goal, but what a man. I still catch myself smiling at the fact that he plays for my team.