Bolton lost their unbeaten League 1 record at the Bank’s stadium thanks to a goalkeeping error from last week’s hero, Mark Howard, and some goalkeeping brilliance from Walsall’s Neil Etheridge. The Philippines international came in for some stick from the numerous White’s contingent for some play-acting, time-wasting and all round twatish behaviour but it was his brilliant display that ensured our defeat.
Bolton lined up without their man of the season thus far, Jay Spearing, due to him receiving a ludicrous 5 bookings in 7 matches. In his place came Sammy Ameobi and Chris Taylor replaced Keshi Anderson from last week’s draw with MK Dons. It appeared that Parky was going to play Henry, Ameobi and Taylor in a fluid threesome behind Proctor where they could all interchange but it transpired that Big Sammy would effectively play anywhere and everywhere as he ran about like a headless chicken. It was a strong side however and there was a confidence it seemed among the fans that we could get back to winning ways.
After a tepid opening 15 the optimism increased as Walsall saw Joe Edwards sent off for an elbow on Chris Taylor. Trevor Kettle, the referee, is no stranger to red cards in Bolton matches, having sent off 3 of our players the last 3 times he has officiated our games. The red card seemed to galvanise Walsall though and the positivity quickly diminished as the hosts took the lead.
A silly foul by Josh Vela gave them the chance to whip a ball into the box and Walsall defender, Jason McCarthy, headed into an empty net as Howard completely missed the delivery in what should have been a routine catch. Lewis Buxton had a header cleared off the line almost immediately but from then on the half fizzled out as Bolton struggled to string two passes together and the half-time whistle brought a fair number of boos from the away support.
Zach Clough’s introduction at half-time for the unlucky Buxton did bring about a drastic change, however, as Bolton looked to take control given their man advantage. What followed was 45 minutes of near total dominance as a Wheater header was cleared off the line and Clough did a great run and shot which almost sneaked in at the near post.
Then came the moment that would, eventually, cause Keshi Anderson to be sent off: Chris Taylor, who had seen one good effort saved by Etheridge, was signalled to leave the field and an eager Anderson ran on to replace him. Kettle then proceeded to mindlessly book the young striker for "cheating" when it was clear he had entered the field of play on the instructions of the 4th Official. It would have taken little more than even the smallest modicum of common sense to just tick the lad off but the card-happy Kettle thought otherwise.
More Bolton pressure continued until the final whistle with Jamie Proctor seeing a great effort tipped wide in stunning fashion by Etheridge. Unfortunately it was clear to a blind man that it would be ‘one of those days’ for the Whites. Walsall had chances through Jackson and the impressive Otzumer to seal it with almost nobody at home for the Whites during the last 20 minutes. It became ever clearer that it wasn’t our day a minute from time however when Kettle continued his streak and sent Anderson off for a 2nd Yellow card.
It was for the most innocuous of fouls and given it was so late in the game some common sense should have prevailed but it summed up Wanderers’ day. Nothing went their way and it was their own mistakes that got them into a position to lose the game. Bradford next week is a huge game in terms of the season and for Parky. The slide needs halting for me if we are going to stay towards the top of this league for much longer.