Another disappointing home defeat to high flying Millwall, here are the five standout points
1. Soft first half goals are killing Bolton
Another game, another defeat and another very soft goal in the first half drains the confidence away from Bolton. Two big bruising centre backs in Beevers and Wheater may be vulnerable to pace, but they should get their heads on everything. This is no longer the case right now and this was typified in how easily Tom Elliott brushed aside Mark Beevers to score the first goal. Parkys pragmatic football style hinges on a solid defence and therefore he has to somehow instil some belief back into his central defenders. One can’t help but fear for Bolton if they concede another soft early goal on Saturday against Barnsley
2. Selection Confusion
Parky suggested there would be changes for this game after the disappointing Derby County performance, stating that Bolton “needed to take more risks”. Connor Hall and Jeff King not featuring for the U23’s at Charlton started the fans rumour mill running, however many were left disappointed with neither of them even in the match day squad and recalls for Andy Taylor and Jon Flanagan in the full back positions. Making six changes between the Birmingham and Derby matches, then reinstalling many of the dropped players for the very next game smacks of muddled thinking, especially stating that Bolton need to take risks and then recalling the more defensive full backs. One may suggest that Antonee Robinson would have been the one player to match Millwall’s Mahlon Romeo for pace as he broke down Bolton’s left for the second goal, had Robinson been selected at left back.
Yes fans don’t see what Parky sees in training every day, so we can only judge on the matches they play. The Derby performance was so disappointing, but the slight glimmer of positivity was the extra pace on the overlap that Robinson and Little provided in the wide positions in the second half. To decide to tear up the play book again and drop both of them for Taylor and Flanagan, who were both disappointing again, leaves the fans frustrated and scratching their heads.
3. Better with Pratley
Though I’ve suggested that Darren Pratley may be one of Bolton’s least popular captains ever, he now seems to be the key man in the survival bid, an assertion that is strongly backed up by the stats of points that Bolton have accumulated with and without him. He is now Parkys target man and gave Bolton a platform to get Ameobi, Noone and Le Fondre into the game, and Bolton’s threat visibly faded as a not match fit Pratley did. Hopefully a week of training gets Pratley up to full fitness and raring to go for the gargantuan Barnsley match on Saturday
4. That bit of luck
Yes Bolton should make their own luck, but those little bits of luck that you need in the relegation battle aren’t dropping for them right now. From Will Buckley’s poor header against Birmingham to the goal line scramble and Craig Noone’s deflected shot just dropping the wrong side of the post, that goal to give the team and fans a lift just isn’t going in right now. Parky must keep the players heads up and believe that the fact that they were such fine margins away from getting a vital lead last night means they must keep putting their hands up and trying to get on the end of chances, where that could be the key for all the confidence to come flooding back to the besieged players.
Despite the lack of luck on the pitch, Bolton’s luck has held in terms of other teams results. Burton taking a hammering at home, Barnsley failing to get anything at Ipswich and Sunderland conceding a late goal means that it is as you were at the bottom, with Bolton crucially having their fate in their own hands.
5. A little perspective and positivity
Millwall are flying, that extra half a yard that confidence gives you allowed them to defend positively and ruthlessly take their chances, in stark contrast to the Bolton players scratching desperately for form. Put simply, I wouldn’t hammer Bolton for that result. For half an hour Bolton looked a threat, Noone was busy and Ameobi looked dangerous driving to the byline and whipping crosses in with his favoured left foot. I feel that Parky should stick with the same front four at Barnsley and take the same positive approach early on against Barnsley, as one can’t help but feel that Bolton need a goal to restore some of the shattered confidence. Barnsley’s defeat at Ipswich means that they will be nervous, hence Bolton should try and feed on that and knock the stuffing out of the home crowd early. Once again, can Parky shake off his naturally defensive tendencies and go for the early goal on Saturday? Squeaky bum time indeed…