Wanderers terrible run of one goal at the Riverside Stadium since 2008 continued with a fairly routine 2-0 defeat to Tony Pulis’s Middlesborough.
The Wanderers line-up was met with dismay from many on social media, due it containing 5 defenders, 1 striker and no wingers. It may have been the most defensive line up I’ve witnessed in all my 23 years of supporting Wanderers.
From the kick off it was apparent Wanderers were lining up with an approximate 5 3 1 1 formation with Josh Vela playing closest to Josh Magennis. The gap between the two Josh’s and the rest of the team was too vast and Wanderers struggled to get out, resulting in a match that resembled something of an attack vs defence training match.
The majority of the first half was poor from both sides, with Wanderers defensive formation stifling Boro’s attack, with Boro themselves looking rather blunt… until Gary O’Neil lost his mind.
What went through his head to ping a firmly hit pass back into his own penalty area with two Boro attackers lurking I will never know, but it resulted in George Saville gleefully slamming home via a deflection off Mark Beevers.
Wanderers looked more positive in the second half, and when they actually attacked Boro the Teesiders defence looked wobbly. Wanderers had a few half the chances, probably the best one falling to Josh Vela, but it wasn’t to be. Almost inevitably, with attacking players thrown on and gaps appearing at the back, Britt Assombalonga punished Bolton with a second goal as the clock ticked over to 90 mins.
For the most of his career, I have been a staunch Parky supporter. Perhaps if Gary O’Neil hadn’t taken leave of his senses and gifted Boro a goal we would have grabbed a hard-fought point. However, I am a firm believer that you have to be able to set a team up that can at least carry a threat to the opposition. It isn’t just that you owe it to the fans to have some ambition to win a game, I feel that is as important to keep a clean sheet as it is to score goals, as it relieves pressure on the defence when you manage to get up the pitch.
The players gave it a go in the second half, that’s the positive. We need to see something else if we are going to get back to winning ways. In my opinion, we do now have players in the squad who can carry a threat in the Championship and Parky needs to embrace that rather than simply piling more defenders into the team and hoping to nick a result. Let’s hope it starts at the weekend.