As the boo’s and chants of ‘you don’t know what your doing’ rained down on Dougie Freedman and his players at 1-0 down, I found myself checking the latest scores to see if Bolton were going to drop into the Championship bottom three. With Peterborough, Bristol City and Barnsley all picking up wins this was a crucial three points for the Whites. It really was desperate times at the Reebok but the introduction of Craig Davies and David N’gog on 58 minutes eventually turned the game in Bolton’s favour.
The first half was a tame affair, two well organised teams cancelled each other out with the best chances coming from set pieces. As the game entered the second half you could feel the frustration growing inside the stadium, groans as passes went astray and sarcastic cheering as Adam Bogdan collected crosses. It does appear to be a small minority of boo boys but they can be clearly heard when things are not going in Bolton’s favour. As the argument goes these fans pay good money and are entitled to an opinion however the already fragile confidence of some players isn’t going to be boosted by a negative crowd. If they feel the need to boo why not leave it until full time. This negativity reached a crescendo as Freedman responded to Burnley taking the lead by replacing the lively Steve De Ridder and Marvin Sordell with Craig Davies and N’gog. The ire of the fans, I believe, was not aimed at the subs coming on but the decision not to replace the hopelessly out of form Chris Eagles. It has to be said Eagles has been poor for some time now but he is capable of flashes of brilliance at Championship level. The fact Bolton were chasing a goal probably explains why he was not substituted, added to this de Ridder has not been playing regular football at Southampton. It should also be said that at the beginning of the season Eagles was Bolton’s best player and is still the top scorer with 7 league goals. Perhaps now is the time to give him a rest in order to help him rediscover his form.
Under Freedman Bolton have appeared much more organised than at any time under Owen Coyle. The introduction of two holding players in front of the back four has made Bolton much more difficult to break down (apart from the Peterborough debacle). However this has not been met with universal approval from Bolton fans. Results have been disappointing, but in my opinion, performances are slowly improving. Some good performances in the FA cup were followed by a narrow 2-1 defeat at Watford. By all accounts Bolton were unlucky not to take a point from this game, controlling possession for large periods but conceding two soft goals.
Having had a strong January transfer window and the returning injured players I still believe Bolton can finish the season strongly and reach a much more respectable league position. Certainly the new signings who featured against Burnley at the weekend were impressive. Craig Dawson was excellent in the air against the physical Charlie Austin and appeared to be organising those around him, a quality that Bolton have lacked for some time. As mentioned earlier Steve De Ridder was lively and looks to be able to go past a player but it was the introduction of the muscular Craig Davies that was the biggest positive from the weekend. From this showing he appears to be able to hold the ball up front as well as run in behind the defence this will be invaluable should Freedman persist with his favoured formation of 4-2-3-1. The signing of the highly rated central midfielder, Medo, from Partizan Belgrade further adds to the options at the managers disposal.
On Saturday at least, Freedman “did know what he was doing“.
Written by James O’Loughlin, We Are Going Up’s Bolton Wanderers blogger
James tweets at @james_O_L