I should be writing this post-match article reflecting in amazement on another smash-and-grab victory, but instead I’m contemplating Bolton Wanderers once again showing their total lack of game management and tactical nous.
Going in at half-time, Bolton had bossed 19% of possession but somehow led 2-0. After half-time, it was clear that we were going to throw it away. Reading immediately began attacking and we sat back, and pretty much didn’t stop doing so. The fact that we decided to actually have a go at them after they equalised, and nearly score twice in injury time as a result, says it all.
The blame for our failure to beat Reading from 2-0 up with 14 minutes remaining falls squarely at the door of Phil Parkinson. True some of our players didn’t perform, but they were delivering on the orders of their manager so who are we to blame them?
While the stats will show you Bolton are now seven games unbeaten, we’ve actually thrown away eight points from winning positions in those games - which would see us sitting in 17th position. Lose a lead once or twice, OK fair enough, but for it to happen four times? That’s unacceptable at this level, and something has to change if we’re to have any chance of avoiding relegation.
Here are our player ratings from the Reading game:
GK; Ben Alnwick - 7: Made a good save at the start of the first half and did well to come off his line quickly and clear a couple off opportunities, but couldn’t do anything about either of the Reading goals. It’s not his fault we automatically go into uber defend mode and invite pressure on him.
RB; Mark Little - 6: Fairly solid again, especially given he gets zero defensive support from his winger.
CB; David Wheater - 7: Until the goals went in it seemed we were coping with anything Reading threw at us, and Wheater led the backline well again.
CB; Reece Burke - 7: Scored his first goal for the club with a nice back-post header, made a good clearance to prevent a good Reading chance early in the second half.
LB; Antonee Robinson - 6: Looked tired, which was unsurprising given he had a knock going into the game. Offers a threat going forwards, but his last ball isn’t good enough and there’s still question marks over how good a defender he is.
CM; Darren Pratley - 7: I can’t remember the last time I praised him, but Pratley was good last night. He scored the goal that should have seen his home safely at 2-0 and worked hard in midfield - can’t really ask for much more than that from him.
CM; Karl Henry - 7: Like Pratley, solid in the middle of the park. He even showed a bit of raw pace to spark an attack in the second half.
RW; Sammy Ameobi - 4: Whether tiredness caught up with him, who knows, but Ameobi was poor. He offered little from an attacking threat other than his usual hopeful 30-yard shot, and gave away a penalty that handed Reading the equaliser. The simple fact of it is that Ameobi can’t defend, and isn’t really very good.
AM; Josh Vela - 7: Worked really hard putting pressure on the Reading defence in the first-half, and delivered the crosses that led to both Bolton goals. We need to find a way to get Vela onto the ball and be able to have an influence in open play though.
LW; Adam Armstrong - 3: If Ameobi was poor, then Armstrong was non-existent. He offered even less than he had at Preston on Friday, and it’s surely time he was dropped - especially as there are two natural wingers sitting on the bench.
CF; Gary Madine - 5: I think we can excuse Madine the odd quiet night. He was once again given absolutely no service, and about his only contribution was reliving his pub antics to get booked for starting a scrap with Paul McShane.
Will Buckley (on for Armstrong, 81) - 6: Looked a bit more of a threat than Armstrong, which isn’t saying much, but was brought on far too late
Adam Le Fondre (on for Vela, 88) - N/A: Introduced about 20 minutes too late, but still managed to get a strike on goal and only a great save by their goalkeeper prevented him from winning it. Our only natural goalscorer - how do we force him into the team?
Craig Noone (on for Ameobi, 88) - N/A: Not convinced he fixes anything, but why bring him on with two minutes left? It was clear that Ameobi wasn’t playing well, so why not make the change earlier and actually give Noone a chance to have a presence on the game. He must be so infuriated by his lack of opportunities, especially considering Filipe Morais was brought on ahead of him at Preston.