God help us when we drop down a division, because the standard of officiating in this league is garbage. The referee completely lost control of the game in the first half. Pompey’s wind up merchant, Ellis Harrison, could have been booked about 6 times in the first half. From kicking the ball away, to consistent fouling - including that on Edwards and seemingly a stamp on Nsiala. The jury is out on whether the foul on Dodoo in the first half was rightly or wrongly only punished with a yellow card. For me, I don’t think there was any attempt to play the ball and denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity, but I’m not a qualified official so my opinion holds no weighting. I felt that Tom Neil failed to give the correct punishment for a number of incidents, failing to control Portsmouth’s over the top challenges and unsporting manner.
A Bolton fans we’ve had some hard times having to put up with the likes of Owen Garvan, Chris Taylor and Clayton Donaldson. All could be argued as the most useless Bolton player of all time. However, they aren’t fit to lace the boots of Keith Hill’s mate, good ol’ Chris O’Grady. Serious questions have to be asked as to why we signed him. What does he offer? Is he really good enough back up in this division? With the rumours that we are looking to add another striker to the squad, that would make O’Grady one of six front men. Surplus to requirements. Never want to see him pull on a Wanderers shirt ever again. How on earth did he manage to miss an open goal from less than 3 yards out?
We now have nine days until our next game, I’m half expecting our transfer business to be sewn up by the time the Bristol Rovers game comes around. The next important task on Wanderers’ to do list has to be the renewal of contracts and tying down some of our youngsters on long term deals. Ronan Darcy and Dennis Politic clearly care massively about this football club, there hasn’t been a game where neither has given anything less than 100%. Their work rate, creativity and natural ability is in a different league to the rest of the squad. Hill has spoken recently about not having the majority of a squad with less than six months on their contract, hopefully this suggests that he’ll be looking to sign some of our future stars up for the foreseeable. If we don’t, I fear massively for our chances next season. In Darcy and Politic, we have a real foundation for an exciting attack in whatever league we find ourselves in next season. Who am I kidding? They’re going to rip up League Two.
No Chicksen, no problem?
Brandon Fleming. A name I wasn’t familiar with before he was linked with us on Thursday. A little bit of research showed how highly he was rated by Hull and their supporters. Grant McCann said that he was joining us for some added experience and was part of their long term future. Questions have to be asked as to why we let Chicksen go when we are “building for the future”, yet replaced him with a young loanee who will be nowhere near this club next season. Anyhow, after a shaky opening few minutes, I thought that Fleming grew into the game really well. Looked dangerous going forward and solid in defensive one on ones. His delivery from the wide areas looked good and he seemed very forward thinking when on the ball. What a combination him & Thibaud could have been! Having only been at the club less than 48 hours before making his first appearance, this extended break will embed the youngster into the squad. I expect that Fleming has a big part to play in the remainder of our season. I was impressed with what I saw.
Why are we so terrible at set pieces? The last time we were in this division, our two centre halves scored an impressive 16 goals between them in the league. Every time we used to get a corner or a freekick in a dangerous spot, we had a strong chance of creating from it. We were dominant in the air, especially in our own box. For some reason, we can’t attack the ball. We have conceded so many goals this season from free kicks or crosses from wide areas, granted, some shouldn’t have been awarded in the first place and some should have been closed down before the cross even came in. However, once they are in the air, I accept that we will lose the aerial battle.
Going forward, we have some excellent set piece technicians. Ronan Darcy, Ali Crawford and Ethan Hamilton have all demonstrated their prowess from dead ball situations. The latter will want to forget the first half free-kick at weekend though. The addition of another centre half could add some much needed power from corners. From memory, we have only scored one goal direct from a corner this season – Daryl Murphy against AFC Wimbledon. It isn’t just the lack of scoring from these that is my cause for concern, but the lack of wanting to attack the ball. There never seems to be anyone steaming in from the edge of the box, or making a sudden change of direction to get on the end of a cross, something we can give every credit to Wheater and Beevers for doing so well.