BOLTON, “Decent start to the season” Is it?

03Oct09

According to manager Gary Megson, Bolton have made a decent start to the season and in the last five matches have won, 3 drawn one, and lost one. Or you could look at it another way…

Bolton opened the season with an unambitious all out defensive performance and a loss against struggling Sunderland who came to the Reebok looking like the home side, could have been 5-0 up by half time and gained their first away win in about 10 months.  Megson’s band of not so merry men were left wallowing at the foot of the table after their next match in which former Bolton coach Phil Brown led Hull to their first win at the KC Stadium since October 2008, yet Megson thought his team played well.  Bolton’s first win came against League Two side Tranmere when Megson fielded his first choice eleven against a team struggling in tje third tier of English football. Tranmere came close many times and a single Bolton goal separated the two sides. 

Bolton then played Liverpool, losing a third league match in a row and joined problem ridden portsmouth as the only team still on zero points.  Next up for Bolton in the league were Portsmouth at Fratton Park, the Bolton fans less than satisfied with the start to the season were beginning to doubt Megson and his bizarre team selections and boring negative tactics.  Pointless Portsmouth had lost nealr every first team player during the Summer and had dragged together a team at the last minute, including four debutants and several others playing only their second game for the club.  Bolton somehow took all three points from the game with the aid of a penalty and a last gasp winner from Gary Cahill which after a scramble he managed to head home.  Winning against Pompy this season seems to be no big deal though, they have played seven, lost seven in the league so far.

Another so called easy match was coming to the Reebok in the shape of Stoke City, relegation candidates and Premiership newbies fighting their way through only their second season in the top flight.  Megson again opted to play his infamous 4-5-1 system at home against a team which an experienced Bolton side should be beating with relative ease.  Stoke dominated the first half and totally outclassed the men in white.  They fully deserved the lead they took on 53 minutes and were hardly troubled by bumbling Bolton who were desperately seeking something.  The home fans were riled and rightly so, it had been months since any Bolton fan had actually witnessed a decent piece of football from their beloved team.  Only an 89th minute penalty could save them when a Stoke defender clumsily brought down Ricketts in the box the ref had no choice but to point to the spot.  Taylor duly converted and the goal gave Bolton their first home point of the season. 

Pure luck seemed to account for most of Boltons success so far, would the same be true in the next game against West Ham?
Bolton rode their luck in this one and with 85 minutes on the clock looked to be heading out of the cup, West Ham’s single goal looked to be enough to see them through.  That was until a long throw and Kevin Davies header rescued a draw after 90 minutes.  Bolton went on to become far more impressive and won the match 3-1.

Birmingham away, newly promoted side still feeling their way into the season.  Surely Megson would learn from the Hammers victory and play a more open attacking game. Not so, 4-5-1 was the order of the day, and although Bolton took an early lead it was by no means a convincing Bolton show.  Birmingham deserved their equaliser and will probably feel robbed that they didn’t go on to put some of their other chances away.  They will feel even worse though that Bolton substitute Chong Yung Lee popped up to score a cool winner 4 minutes from time.  Credit must go to the players in some part for the results they have ground out but a large slice of luck has  also served to save Gary Megson’s blushes.

In reality, rather than the last 5 matches simply being seen as 3 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss, I would say you have to look deeper to understand the full picture.  We were beaten by Hull and Sunderland, we  managed a draw against Stoke City only because of a last gasp penalty, we got lucky against Pompy and we beat a team 2 divisions below us by one goal using our full strength team.  After 90 minutes against West Ham, a full strength Bolton side again scraped an equaliser against a team largely made up of reserves.  And we beat Birmingham by the skin of our teeth after a free kick hit the post and bounced back for Bolton player to score in the closing minutes.   Only when we face a strong Premiership side will we really see our numerous flaws exposed and I fear that time may be about to come against Tottenham.  

So if this is what Megson calls a decent start to the season I fear how bad we will be when he admits we are having a bad time.  If only he could see that the wins and draws which we have achieved have been freak accidents which happened despite our poor tactics and team selections, not because of the managers great tactics and team selections.

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