So I got to watch Bolton Wanderers win live for the first time since Bolton 2-1 Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day 2014. Here are five things I took from the match.
Referees at this level are terrible
The ref had a rather bizarre game I think it is fair to say. I will point out now that I am not convinced the ref was being biased towards either side, although Rovers maybe did get a little more from his odd game management.
Almost every time Gary Madine or Jamie Proctor competed for the ball the defenders got the decision. Most of them were fairly 50/50 but the sheer number that went against our attackers was remarkable. This included one occasion where the defender knew he had lost control of the situation and just fell over in front of Proctor and won the free kick. I think that at a certain point the defenders realised they could get away with almost anything and it showed.
There was then the added time debacle. The clock hit 90 minutes and we all expected the fourth official’s board to go up. We kept on waiting for a good two or three minutes at which point four minutes added time were indicated. All in we defiantly played for more than an extra four minutes and it was a quite remarkable situation I have never seen before.
The refereeing did not cost us in this match of course. But if we are involved in more games with refereeing like that then I think it will cost us points this season.
David Wheater does not give a crap
Wheater and another Bolton defender marshalled a Rovers attacker off the ball. The Rovers attacker (who was fine by the way) proceeded to spend a while crumpled in a heap on the floor. Wheater moved towards him seemingly to give him a tap to see if he is ok/ tell him to get up. But no. Wheater had noticed a patch of dislodged turf which needed attending too. He fixed the patch and then walked off again. What a legend.
We finally have a solid defence
This has been noted in recent weeks but it is so nice to see first-hand just how solid this defensive unit is. I can hear people saying but we conceded it can’t have been that solid. Well it was.
Almost every ball which went near our goal was headed away by one of Wheater or Mark Beevers. Their goal was their only real opening as the attacker reacted well to the loose ball. Other than that they had a couple of shots from range, one of which flew over the tent which they call an away end and into someones garden.
I won’t lie I found the last 20 minutes very nerve racking. Rovers were piling forward seeking an equaliser. At the time I thought they might find it. But looking back on it now that was never going to happen, the defence was almost always in control of the situation. And when they were not they recovered well and quickly to regain control.
I cannot remember the last time I saw a Bolton team so comfortable at the back despite sustained pressure form the opposition. If this defensive form can continue we really do have the ground work in place for a sustained push towards promotion.
With fine tuning Bolton on the counter attack will be dangerous
There were a couple of occasions towards the end of the game where we broke clear and really should have added the third. With some fine tuning I see no reason why next time the lads won’t.
The first occasion was a wonderful mazing run from Zach Clough who came through a group of players to appear in the box. It was crying out to be hit but instead he tried to square it and the defence was able to clear. The next best chance was when Conor Wilkinson broke clear. The chance opened up for him which he missed. But more criminally he missed Clough arriving unmarked in the box. If Clough had shot and Wilkinson had passed then the closing stages may have been a lot less nervous.
Madine is no target man and Mark Howard cannot kick
This last one is a two for one deal to keep it at five things.
Beginning with Madine I felt he had a good game. He showed great work ethic and held the ball up well at times even winning the free-kick which Jay Spearing was all too happy to score from. But I felt as a target man for long balls he leaves a lot to be desired. The defenders were far far too comfortable against him on this occasion. Yes it probably helped that every decision by the ref went the way of the Rovers defenders. But there is defiantly room for improvement if we are to continue to launch balls at the man.
As for Howard’s kicking it was suspect all night especially when under any modicum of pressure. It didn’t cost us at all and wasn’t bad enough to risk doing so but does leave a slight question mark over our new number one for me.