Barring lots of huffing and puffing that’s pretty much where the afternoon’s successes began and ended. That said, onto the talking points:
1) Terrible Refereeing Decisions
I’m not going to make this all about the referee, who was appalling, but the tone was set from the very first minute when he failed to send off Joe Williams for a shockingly mis-timed lunge. This was after 47 seconds.
Things didn’t improve as he decided to award a penalty to the visitors despite being in a terrible position. To my knowledge he didn’t appear to consult his linesman who, on the evidence of Saturday’s game, would likely have awarded Wigan two penalties.
The usual inconsistencies continued throughout the remainder of the game, culminating in Wanderers being denied a last-gasp penalty when the impressive Morsy was given a huge let-off when, with his hands up in the air, he deflected a Bolton cross out for a corner. We’ve all seen them given but to see it turned down summed up Mr Hooper’s performance.
2) Bolton’s Midfield Woes
Wanderers lined up with Jason Lowe and Joe Williams behind Sammy Ameobi, Will Buckley and Craig Noone. Three attackers - maybe Williams?
Well that wasn’t the case on Saturday. As a midfield they were largely devoid of any creative play, with only Noone and Buckley coming from the occasion with much by way of credit.
Unfortunately, Williams and Lowe are pretty poor on the ball. Lowe, by any measure, must be considered one of the poorest players that we have ever had. His lack of interest in anything other than a backwards pass is really starting to become a hindrance to any sort of attacking momentum. Williams has dropped off so massively that one can only surmise that his continued inclusion is something to do with the terms of his loan from Everton.
I long for the days of Mark Davies running at defences from deep with intent and attacking vigour. Now we have two central midfielders so acutely aware of their lack of passing ability that as soon as the ball reaches their feet they get rid of it. It’s contributing to our absolute lack of attacking thrust.
3) The Strikers
Firstly, let me be clear in saying that I thought Christian Doidge worked really hard on Saturday and was impressive in the air. However, he came nowhere near scoring - missing the goal by a mile with his one chance.
Josh Magennis came on in the second half and was barely involved.
The style of play, mentioned in point two above, contributes to the lack of opportunities that our strikers have. How can they be expected to be at the tip of our attacking force when they’re expected to come back and help win the ball in the first place?
Doidge has failed to really impress during his bit-part role thus far and on the evidence of the Wigan game it’s hard to make an argument for him to be our main man. His lack of upper body strength - despite his impressive leap - hinders his usefulness for us and then there’s his liking of a dramatic dive.
Neither he nor Magennis have shown enough in their short Wanderers careers to date to make anyone think that they really have much of a long-term shot at being our main striker.
4) The Trouble With Sammy
Sammy Ameobi is our best player.
However, when Sammy isn’t on the ball he’s pretty much useless. He wasn’t quite useless on Saturday but it was another example of why a player of his ability is playing for Bolton Wanderers and not for Barcelona.
We need him to be at full strength every week. We haven’t got anyone who can do the things that he can. We know it and opponents know it - Wigan marked him out of the game and he left withdrawn by Phil Parkinson midway through the second half.
Hopefully we see the Sammy we all know soon. God knows we need him.
5) Phil Parkinson
I think this game was must-win for Parky but it was important for his future at the club for him not to lose. Wanderers were unimpressive but it must be said that they played with heart. Was this for the manager? Was this as a two-fingers-up to Ken Anderson or was it for themselves? Who knows.
Does this mean that manager Parkinson has a long-term future at Bolton Wanderers? I doubt it because our position in the relegation zone remains precarious.
So where do we go from here?
The absence of obvious alternatives should not preclude him from discussion in the managerial sack race. Sometimes a fresh voice in the dressing room is as useful as anything and there are some who believe that that fresh voice is what is needed. Be it David Lee, be it Bruce Lee, it doesn’t really matter.
Unfortunately for PP, Wanderers have two very tough games on the horizon with Norwich City and Leeds United up next. Losing them both would extend our winless league run to a neat dozen and you would have to think that being in such a terrible spot come the New Year would prompt Ken to make the change.
I wouldn’t celebrate his departure, but then again I wouldn’t mourn it, either.