Fan’s view 2019/20 – no.13 – Bolton Away

Article by Paul Beasley Thursday, September 19th, 2019  

BOLTON AWAY

Bolton Wanderers and Bury are two teams that have been talked about in the same breath when discussion amongst football people has centred on the depressing state of finances in the Football League and the horrendous damage unscrupulous and incompetent owners can bring to bear. Damage that goes beyond the club and deep into the heart of the community.

Bury have gone, for now. Bolton survived with only one fixture postponed. That was the one against Doncaster on August 20th because they were concerned for the welfare of their younger players, who at the time were making up the bulk of their starting eleven. That decision was made by Bolton not the EFL.

I’ve often plugged When Saturday Comes and lifted a fair few quotes from “the half decent football magazine” and make no apologies for doing so again now.

In the October edition there’s a Clubs in Crisis article which covers Bury and Bolton and the headline on the front page is “How has it come to this?” Well worth a read but it is from the editorial, which must have been written before the takeover of BWFC by Football Ventures (Whites) Limited was completed that I take a few sentences.  “Bolton’s woeful recent experience is that of a medium-sized club unable to adjust to relegation from the Premier League, their problems being compounded by the death of long-term benefactor Eddie Davies in 2016. Their debt was quoted at one point as £173m. Short of cancelling that and making enemies of other clubs, it’s unclear how they will ever get out of the burden as League Two, at best, seems the next destination”.

I’d argue that in the vast majority of cases teams that get promoted deserve to do so even taking account of the “lottery” of the play-offs. Relegated clubs also largely end up with what they deserve. There’s luck along the way and whether we like to believe it or not there is probably a lot of the evening out of which people talk.

Do we get to play a team with or without their star players due to injury or suspension? Do we get to play a team when they’re playing well or terribly? (Tranmere must have been ten times better than they had been against us just three days later to get a draw against Peterborough).  Do we get to play a team that has taken its eye off the ball due to a cup run?

These situations are all part and parcel of the game of football. The Bolton situation is not; it is as far as I can remember a one off. Wycombe, Coventry, Tranmere, Ipswich and Gillingham were in effect playing against a different team than the one we faced. They were basically given a free hit which included a golden opportunity to significantly boost their goal difference although the Sky Blues inexplicably spurned this.

Of the starters against us, six – four of whom are on loan – signed on September 2nd. Will Buckley had actually been released after his contract had run out in the summer and now he’s back. A seventh, Adam Chicksen, signed just last Friday. He was released by Bradford in June.

They’d clearly brought in some experience and whilst the new look Wanderers got turned over 6-1 at Rotherham on Saturday, our visit was going to be different as they’d had that game and a few days to get to know each other. Plus this was on their own turf.

Not that this should have been enough to stop any good league one side that had had all summer to get together a good well balanced squad, put in the hard yards in pre-season and gel into an effective unit. Particularly as there were only 6,422 home fans present. I had expected at least double that as this was their first match at the University of Bolton Stadium since they’d been saved. This was a huge surprise and perhaps tells that Bolton isn’t quite such a big club as I had thought, the fans are not convinced by FV Ltd or, with the points deduction, the thinking is why bother? Those that were there did give good support but it was hardly a cauldron, although with the ground being less than a quarter full that is to be expected.

I can’t speak highly enough of the two Bolton fans we met, a father and son. As a group we were not the speediest of walkers from pub to ground and they kindly went along at our speed and pointed us in the direction of the away turnstile. They were just glad to still have a team to support and clearly got much joy from witnessing their first goal of the season at the New York Stadium even if they did get a good tonking thereafter.

Bolton Wanderers 0 Oxford United 0

There was no doubt from the first blowing of Paul Marsden’s whistle that we were playing a proper team and they had us on the back foot.

Apparently Malcolm Shotton, Rad Ox summariser for the night, spotted that our full-backs were not in the right position. I can definitely see that in the case of Chris Cadden but I’m not so sure about Josh Ruffels. Cadden was AWOL a fair bit from the traditional RB post and it has been said by some of our fans that defensively he is weak. I noticed that more here than previously and from an attacking perspective, which is his strength, delivery was mostly not great.

There were many times when we had only one player wide facing two of their attackers. This suggests that the wide(ish) midfielders were not coming back to help the full-backs out when they were outnumbered, we were allowing too much space in central midfield or were lacking in the closing down department further up field, thus allowing Bolton to play this way. They did have players who looked confident on the ball and came across as wanting it just that little bit more than us. A few balls over the top were also doing us.

For all that though they didn’t score. Some of their shooting was atrocious and when they were rather more accurate, either the woodwork or Simon Eastwood came to the rescue.

We weren’t totally lacking in contribution to the match and did play some semi-slick passing football but it was nowhere near incisive enough nor in areas that was going to hurt Bolton.

With around half an hour gone, when a move from the hosts broke down, there was a tiny murmur of discontent from their supporters. Perhaps they were expecting too much and also had got frustrated that they weren’t leading because they were clearly the better side. I think we should have seized on this little chink and tried to up our game, thus turning the crowd to more audible mutterings and therefore to our advantage. But we didn’t.

In the second half I was half expecting and half hoping that having weathered the storm (not that you could actually call it that), as the fitter and better organised team we’d take the game.

There was a period when I thought we’d actually done so having bode our time well. From a Cadden cross a Cameron Brannagan header forced a good save from Remi Matthews and a well hit James Henry shot with help from a deflection struck an upright but it wasn’t to be.

On what I’d witnessed we were lucky to have taken a point. There’s a feeling that we’re in for another season that mostly isn’t going to inspire and excite. A season that’s quite mundane. We didn’t win away in 2018/19 until Feb 23rd and although there were a lot of draws on our travels it was all largely a slog. More of the same is wearing people down. We have not yet got going properly this season and if we don’t soon all we’ll be achieving is survival, which in theory should be a piece of piss. We’re no way set up for Championship football but it would be nice to at least give a hint that we could get close to a play-off position if just to banish any creeping boredom.

My take on our display was overall pretty poor and within that some individual performances that weren’t up to it on the night.

John Mousinho and Rob Dickie didn’t do too badly at centre-half and until the closing stages when mistakes and I think frustration too crept in, the latter was possibly the best in a yellow shirt.

Brannagan is another who gets frustrated when the team is not playing well and it is not for want of effort on his part that this is not put right. His partner in central midfield, Alex Gorrin, had a much less effective game than he had against Tranmere.

As is almost a given when Henry plays well the whole team play well. Our penalty taker supreme was below the standard he usually sets. In one instance in the second half he lost the ball when surrounded by opponents and it appeared to me that his head went down. There was no immediate running to get back into position where he would be of value to the team. That is just a tiny criticism of a player I really rate but these things can make a difference. Of course I don’t know how knackered he was.

Tariqe Fosu didn’t get going as we know he can although he did have a first half penalty claim. It was shown again on EFL on Quest but there’s no facility on line to play it back in slow motion so I’m still unsure. I will say though that there was a quite similar incident involving a Bolton player on the edge of our box a bit earlier that was given. I’m not saying the referee was influenced by the home crowd. But he might have been.

Ben Woodburn is undoubtedly a young player with class but doesn’t get involved enough. It’s a disappointment that he has only found the back of the net once for us so far.

Matty Taylor has been brought in to do that. He’s not done so yet in the 207 minutes, excluding added time, he’s played. He’s been involved in three defeats and this draw. Here he hardly touched the ball. Without goals I can’t see that he contributes much at all to the team. Jamie Mackie’s shithousery was missed and we had very little presence up top. But it’s not Taylor’s fault he’s not Mackie and we did not create the type of chances (whatever they are) on which he thrives.

Mackie, the second victim within the squad in a few days of back spasms, didn’t even travel to the Greater Manchester area. This was probably why we saw Dan Agyei for just over ten minutes when Taylor was replaced. Only the harshest of critics would judge on this briefest of cameos. All I’ll say is he was unable to bring the ball under control on a couple of occasions when in a crowded situation and passed up the chance to be an instant hero to us 364 travellers. Then it looked like we might be able to break and get in on goal. With the ball at his feet we waited to see if he had a trick to get past the last defender or just knock it and go past with pace and power, after all he should have been 100% fresh having just come on. What he did was just run into the white shirt in front of him. Never mind he’s got nearly three years of his contract left to put this right.

One point per game is a pathetic return so far and our 17th position would look worse if the teams below us with games in hand had played them in this unbalanced table.

Keeping a second clean sheet in a row has to be a positive though and this result which makes it two unbeaten matches is our best run of the season. The bar has been set so very low but we can raise it a bit by getting something at Lincoln. If the Imps are still manager-less that will help our cause but knowing our luck they’ll have a replacement for the Cowley brothers in post.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2019 at 10:06 am and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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