Bolton Wanderers: Supermassive Black Hole
21 April 2012 15:00
Shortly before kick off the sounds of Muse's ''Resistance'' came over the tannoy system at the Reebok Stadium. At the end of the game, it would have been apt to follow it up with their 2003 classic ''Time Is Running Out'' as another insipid display, brightened only by a well taken goal and Neil Whatmore doing the Golden Gamble draw, added to wins for two of our closest rivals saw us fall another place to nineteenth. In a glass half full world, the draw could be seen as a point gained as Swansea deserved to take all three points and we rode our luck again. However, a draw against the team with the worst away record in the division outside the bottom five is more like two points dropped and, no matter what you say about games in hand and our rivals forthcoming opponents, if we play over the next five games as we played yesterday, we are going down. And we will fully deserve it.
We know that Swansea are a passing team and against them we would have to be at our most pressing. That pressing only came in the last ten minutes when it became clear that Swansea may just be settling for a draw. At no other time could you describe the tactics as pressing. This was epitomised by the amount of time that Michel Vorm had the ball at his feet. If Big Sam was dead, he'd be turning in his grave.
A virus ruled out Darren Pratley, meaning that Chris Eagles became a makeshift midfielder and SKD was the preferred lone striker as OC went back to Plan A, there is no Plan B. Whilst the captain toiled a lonely furrow up front, having the same problems as N'Gog has had for the majority of the season, when he did beat whichever Swansea defender had hold of him/he had hold of, his little head ons landed mostly at the feet of the Swansea defence. Another game, another front line striker who didn't score. Which has been the problem for most of the season.
When the goals game, it was early on. Scott Sinclair received the ball on the left wing in the sixth minute and Steinsson tried to show him down the line. Sinclair took no notice of this and headed along the penalty area, Steinsson didn't get close enough to him and the former Chelsea man hit an unstoppable shot past Bogdan.
Surprisingly, in this season of letting our heads drop, we replied almost immediately. Petrov went on a run down the left and Eagles ran a similar line through the middle. The Bulgarian lifted his head a few times to make sure he knew where the midfielder was and when he crossed, all it took was Eagles momentum to put ball past Vorm.
Before then, the tactic had been exclusively to hit the ball towards SKD. The first time that we didn't, the ball landed in the net. Taking absolutely no notice of this whatsoever, after the goal the ball was still mostly launched towards the captain's head, continuously breaking down. When Swansea had the ball, they passed it smoothly, as befits their reputation, and it was hard to get it off them. But when you sit back in your own half and wait for them to come at you, that tends to be the case.
We can talk about chances, but ours boil down to two. A Petrov free kick that had Vorm diving to his right to palm it away and a Chris Eagles shot that fizzed wide late in the game. Other than that, Eagles was frustrating, running into empty channels, giving the ball away when deciding to run, passing lazily and at times looking bored. He came to life after replacing Ryo, again poor, on the right but this was negated by the lack of effect N'Gog made on proceedings, always needing two touches too many and finding that a Swansea player had taken the ball off him. Klasnic fared little better as SKD's replacement, the ball never falling quite right for the Croatian.
As for Swansea, they had all the bright chances, from a free kick spilled by Bogdan straight to the feet of Caulker that he shanked wide to Steinsson's last ditch whip of the ball from Sinclair's feet at the far post. When Danny Graham shuddered the crossbar, Steinsson not closing him down quick enough, you could read it one of two ways. Our luck was in or someone was giving us false hope.
On the final whistle, some boos came down from the stands. This was uncalled for. No matter what had happened in the game, a point is still a point in a game that we didn't deserve one in. Fans are entitled to their opinion, but there are times it is called for and times it is not. Boo all you want at a loss, but the no mans land of a draw isn't the place.
Naturally, the manager's opinion was slightly skewed from what those in the stands were, but we have become so used to that now it doesn't come as a surprise. Talk of getting a grip of the game after we scored is wide of the mark, talking of the quality that Swansea have makes them seem like world beaters when, in fact, they are in the bottom half of the table, saying that in the last fifteen minutes we were the team pushing on when Swansea still had chances and not just from breaking. He talks of application and effort, when what most saw was anything other than players going through the motions. It is a shame that he cannot come out and confirm what everyone else saw. But that is the nature of football.
I have a real fear now. Watching yesterday, in a game, like Fulham, that was targeted for three points but didn't produce them, you cannot actually see where those elusive points are coming from. Games in hand are all well and good, but as those around us continue to pick up points by showing commitment far above that which we have been served up, you start believing the worst.
Funnily enough, I still have faith that we will stay up, simply because I cannot bring myself to think about trips to Barnsley. That faith is swiftly eroding. Come Tuesday, at a club that has its own problems, the floor may well fall in.