Bolton Wanderers: One Game
18 August 2012 15:00
It is true that you can make anything out of statistics that you want. Take last season for example. Out of the three teams that were promoted to the Premier League at the end, only Southampton won. Reading drew and West Ham lost. At home.
Then there have been our own promotion winning seasons. In 2000-01, we started with a home draw against, ironically, Burnley . 1996-97, the season of one hundred goals, started with a 1-1 draw away at Port Vale. The previous promotion two seasons earlier had started with another draw, this time 3-3 at Grimsby . Some may remember 1987-88 when we were in Division Four, which began with a 1-1 draw at home to Crewe . OK, these are not losses, but neither are they a local derby against a group of fans who have enough time on their hands to fly a plane over the ground with a banner attached to it and against a bunch of players, some of whom Owen Coyle brought to Turf Moor, who may have a point to prove..
This is not an apology for what happened yesterday, another performance that started brightly and then quickly went down the pan. But, before anyone wants to get all Ernst Stavros Blofeld on Owen Coyle and feed him to their piranhas, you have to remember it is one game. Just one game.
And what was it you were expecting, a cake walk in the sun? The Championship is a grind. A long, long grind. We are going to lose games. We are going to lose games by more than two goals. Are people going to be calling for resignations left, right and centre every time we are beaten by teams that we consider to be our inferior? Here`s a wake up call. They aren`t our inferior. They are in the same division as us because they deserve to be there. Did people call for Colin Todd`s head in August 1996?
And for those that say this is a continuation of last season, would that be the end of last season where, although some performances weren`t all that good, we lost three times in eleven games and two of those were to teams challenging for Europe ? Premier League teams coming down to the Championship can suffer from culture shock, so let`s not think that we`re going to end up in League One next season, playing the likes of Tranmere on a more regular basis.
Having said that, the old failings were still there. The defensive frailties, the lack of shots on target, the lack of pressing and the lack of urgency. Whilst Burnley`s first goal was offside, the whole defence stood with their arms up when they should have been challenging the header, allowing the ball to play ping pong in the area after it had come off Tyrone Mears face. The second goal was too easy as well, the ball being allowed to cross the goalmouth and a lone Burnley striker, this time Charlie Austin, having the ball simply rebound off him and into the net. Time and again this happened last season, with no one taking responsibility for clearing the ball. It happened again yesterday.
And it could have been worse. Burnley were better organised and although the stats show a pretty even spread of shots, Bogdan was undoubtedly Bolton`s man of the match, whereas Grant had very little to do. Bolton` two best chances were ballooned over the bar by Petrov or mishit by LCY. The second could be explained away by a general rustiness, but you would expect Petrov to have put his shot on target.
The midfield were overrun, Andrews seemingly hamstrung by his early yellow that does not bode well for the rest of the season. Mark Davies was anonymous and whilst LCY and Petrov were good going forward, as soon as Burnley got the ball, the popped it over his head and allowed the winger to run at Ricketts. Petrov did his usual trick of looking at what was going on and then deliberating whether it would be worth his while running back. With the midfield losing out, the defence decided to go to plan B and hoof it to SKD, who was losing a losing battle. His withdrawal for Afobe midway through the second half a blessed relief. At the same time, Eagles was brought on for Petrov, rather than trying the left footed Wylde or going for five across the midfield. Eagles, played out of position, did little but fared a lot better than Darren Pratley, brought on for Mavies later on in the game, whose one action of note was to get himself booked.
The maligned Zat Knight did admirably with his head, so Burnley changed their game to playing along the floor, something that Knight cannot cope with. Both central defenders weren`t at the races yesterday and Mears appeared to be dazzled by playing at Turf Moor again. Ricketts sole rear guard action didn`t do him any favours either.
At least when Afobe came on he and Sordell worked together well, but before that happened, Sordell was proving just why he wasn`t selected more last season. If you shut your eyes, you could just imagine that this was the middle of last season, all over again.
Congratulations to Burnley, who played an excellent game and fully deserved their win. But it is one game, just one game. It is out of the way now. There are two home games to come now this week. Once we have got them out of the way, everything may be a little clearer. Either way.
For this to happen, changes will need to be made. Riley at least has to go to right back. Whilst he had a good game, by his standards, Knight will remain a liability on the floor and Mills should come in. Calls for Eagles to replace LCY are premature, LCY needs the game time, but after Mavies did less than nothing yesterday, Eagles could be preferred to him in the middle. As for up front, hard though it will be for people to hear, if SKD is there, there will be always be the inclination to hit it long. I'm not saying he plays no part, but we need to be cleverer than that. He was bossed by Burnley yesterday, and that shouldn't be. Afobe to start alongside Sordell, at least to see what they will be like. And better substitutions if needed. We know what Pratley and Eagles can do. Why wasn't Wylde tried?