Bolton Wanderers came from 1-0 down to earn a draw against a Reading side immediately above the Whites in the table. It was a match that should have really been a win for the Whites, having squandered two golden opportunities during the match. Every team below Bolton in the table lost tonight amplifying the importance of the result but it also underscores the two points dropped.
Phil Parkinson promised changes after our 3-1 capitulation against Preston North End and he duly delivered. Alnwick started in goal with Jon Flanagan, Reece Burke, Mark Beevers and Andrew Taylor making up the defence. There was a central midfield trio of Darren Pratley, Karl Henry and Jan Kirchoff with Filipe Morais and Will Buckley and the wings. Adam Le Fondre led the line.
The game started and proved to be quiet off the bat. Adam Le Fondre squandered a glorious chance to make it 1-0, blazing over when 1 on 1 with the keeper. Reading would capitalise on our wastage, scoring midway through the half - former Wanderer target, Modou Barrow getting the goal. Wanderers would strike back shortly after with Le Fondre making amends for his earlier miss. Buckley would see another guild edged opportunity go wanting which should have really put Wanderers ahead. The first half finished 1-1. The second half saw both teams have chances but Wanderers were by far the dominant team and will be left wandering how they didn’t get the win.
Jan Kirchoff looks like he’ll be a good signing on the basis of this game. His calmness on the ball, physical presence in midfield and defensive play was all noted. We missed him when he went off for Jem Karacan in the second half. Elsewhere Adam Le Fondre had a good game despite his miss. He really plays his socks off when he gets opportunities, Parky’ needs to stop this striker rotation bollocks and reward good form with starts.
On a negative note I was really, really disappointed by the introduction of Aaron Wilbraham in the second half to the exclusion of Zach Clough when we had Reading on the ropes (as much as we can do with our squad). The Reading defence was not coping with the direct running and pace of ALF and so Clough seemed the natural accompaniment to make more space, run at the defence and play some better passes higher up the park. Yet Parkinson decides to bring on Aaron Wilbraham and revert to hoofing it up which Reading seemed far more comfortable in dealing with. Whilst Clough hasn’t started his second stint with great form, this match was calling out for a player with his skill-set. A second reason this is frustrating is that we haven’t seen ALF and Clough together yet and the two have a decent connection and understanding, why would that not be utilised? Finally, the football we had been playing all afternoon was in no way suited to Aaron Wilbraham, so why when we’re in control would you change the service to the strikers? It was a bad call by Parkinson and quite frankly one that could have cost us two extra points. Wilbraham seems a nice chap and I never enjoy when fans find ‘that player’ to scapegoat but he should really be no where near this team. If we’re changing the style of football then lets embrace it. He’s now in double figures for appearances without a goal and only has such good starts/wins ration due to his appearances in cup games. In short, ALF to start against Sheffield Wednesday with Clough in behind. They’re in free fall and need to starting chalking up wins, something we just wont do with Wilbraham on the pitch.