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Man of the Match: Bolton Wanderers 0 – 1 Blackburn Rovers

The best of an average bunch?

Stoke City v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Well yesterday didn’t go according to plan did it? I wish I hadn’t been giving it the big one all week to my colleague who’s a Blackburn fan, I probably jinxed us, I apologise.

I travelled to the game on a replacement bus from Manchester with about seven Welsh lads (who it turned out were Christian Doidge’s brother & mates). I was hoping that I might be writing about him in this article, that he would come big for us in a tight game and he so nearly did, bar a linesmans flag and a scrambled save. In the end of what was a very even game overall, it was Blackburn who came away with the win. A scrappy first half goal by their talisman Bradley Dack was the difference, after some dodgy defending from everyone’s favourite scapegoat, Jonathan Grounds. Bolton huffed and puffed and for a side that usually looks to sit back we actually dominated in possession for long stretches of the game. But, as Blackburn probably knew, we struggle to break teams down and create chances. It was that lack of creativity that cost us yesterday but who was the stand out man in a sea of average performances?

For me, it has to be Jason Lowe. The big man is quite a limited footballer overall, he isn’t going to ever make the highlight reels for his diagonal balls from deep or screamers from 30 yards out. But he’s the kind of player every team needs if they are going to be competitive in this division. They need the kind of player who will run for 90 minutes box to box, do all the not very pleasant parts of the game, make the lunged last ditch tackles and recycle possession with simple, short passes. Lowe did all that last night and he did it all against his former club without being overwhelmed by the situation. His relationship with Joe Williams is improving the more the two of them play together. Even though we have struggled at times over the last few games, I feel more confident now in our midfield than I have been in recent years and mainly because of the balance we have of youth and experience. Joe seems happy to do all the legwork, he is at his best when striding forward and linking with Oz and Magennis but in order for him to do that he needs the likes of Lowe behind him, in order to protect the defence. Combined with Williams he forms an effective screen in front of our centre-halves that enables us to sit solidly and try to hit the better teams on the break. When in possession, as we were last night, he is happy to sit deep and be an option for teammates under pressure or the first man to deal with long balls out.
His free agent signing in the pre-season didn’t prompt much excitement from our fans but it’s been just as important a signing as Pav’s and Oztumer’s have been and arguably the most Parky signing we’ve made to date.

So yesterday was the kind of game we can all collectively forget about (unless you’re me walking into work on Monday morning). Not necessarily a poor performance like the game against Sheffield was, but not anything to rave about either, just a battle between two very even teams that will be in similar places at the end of the season. I’m sure Jason would have liked a win against his former club but he can be happy in the knowledge that he put in a shift for us and that if he carries on playing that way, it puts us in a position to be competitive and win more games than we otherwise would lose.