Bolton Wanderers: Postcode Lottery
6 May 2012 14:00
Here is a cut out and keep list (please note that this list can and will be added to)
There is a very real possibility that you will need that list next season, for it is a list of postcodes for all the clubs that are definitely playing in The Championship. Add onto that the postcode BL6 6JW, as Bolton Wanderers stare into a very deep hole of their own making.
With ten minutes to go of yesterday's game it could have been so different. Leading 2-1 against a West Brom team with nothing to play for except sending their manager on his way and with Stoke holding QPR, we were two points out of the relegation zone and, with QPR at Citeh next weekend, virtually assured of survival. Cut to ten minutes later, The Baggies had equalised, QPR had scored and we were two points adrift with one game to play.
We all knew before the game that in all probability we would have to go to Stoke and get a result, so nothing has changed there. It is just the scale of the result. In the four years since a bookie paid out on Stoke going straight back down after we had beaten them in their first game in the Premier League we have beaten them just once at The Britannia, and that was a smash and grab effort in 2010 when Matt Taylor scored twice in the last five minutes. Apparently, Stoke's performance at QPR yesterday disproved the notion that their season is over and you can be damn sure that, after their 5-0 'revenge' loss at T'Reebok in November they will be looking for their own satisfactory end to the season. The only teams to have lost fewer games at home this season at home are the top five.
However, our form away from home is better than it has been at home (nobody in the bottom half has won more) and if we are to get a result next weekend that that is what we are going to do to stay up. The mathematics are simple. Win stay up. Anthing else, start packing for Barnsley.
Yesterday's game, to be fair, could have been 6-6 the amount of chances created, from SKD's blazing over from a Petrov cross early on before Bogdan saved from McCauley before Dorrans hit wide and Shane Long tickled the upright.
However, it took Martin Petrov's penalty to settle some nerves, Keith Andrews and Youssouf Mulumbu tag teaming Mark Davies, who this time definitely didn't dive. The Bulgarian's penalty, low and hard to Foster's right, was well taken.
Not that it settled many nerves with Ream and Wheater and then Ream and Knight having difficulties all day. The midfield gave the ball away too often and David N'Gog kept up his reputation as the striker who doesn't strike. Still, when Petrov marauded down the left and crossed for Ridgewell to cannon a ball off Billy Jones's chest and into the net, wrongfooting Foster, survival was surely in Bolton's hands.
By this time OC had taken N'Gog off and replaced him with Klasnic, a strange move seeing as how we didn't actually have to score and Klasnic, whilst a striker who does strike, has appeared to be on strike recently. N'Gog is a willing runner, Klasnic is not. If trying to hold onto a lead then it would be N'Gog who was needed, a player who is willing to run. When the ball fell to Chris Brunt just three minutes after the second goal and he made no mistake, eyes must have turned to N'Gog sitting on the bench and wondered who would now run into the corners after the ball.
Cue even more nervous defending. LCY, given a standing ovation even before he had sat on the bench, was given another one when he replaced the outstanding Petrov in another curious substitution. Whilst it is good to see LCY back, surely Miyaichi would have been the better sub for Petrov or even LCY for Eagles? To ask a player who has been out for nine months to come onto the pitch when you are holding on? I don't get it and is another in a litany of strange substitutions that OC has made this season.
Still Bolton held on but, after the ball had been given away in midfield, West Brom attacked down the right where SKD was the covering defender (that's right, that's how far we were back), the ball moved around the area until Cox floated the ball across the area for James Morrison, unmarked, to smack the ball into the roof of the net. From jubilation to misery in one fifteen minute period.
People filed out at the end of the game, not waiting for the 'lap of appreciation' that didn't come in a move that goes against what a 'family club' are supposed to be about. In his pre match interview, OC talked about the crowd being 'magnificent' and 'educated'. For those waiting for the players to return to the pitch, that hardly seemed to be the case. The manager himself, normally so happy to applaud, had already turned tail and headed down the tunnel before the handshakes had been completed. A strangely Megsonesque move.
So, we head to The Potteries for a do or die. That will be the biggest game of the season, no doubt. It may also be our last in the Premier League. But that is for another time. There is still the possibility that we will stay up and whilst that is there, there is still hope. But the flame is flickering. Come next Sunday, it may be expunged.