December 29, 2012 by Made In Brum
Bolton 3 Blues 1.
This has been the story all season hasn’t it? After a vital win at Barnsley on Boxing Day, Blues flushed it all down the drain with a lacklustre display at Bolton. Did we expect anything different? Well, not after the bombshell dropped on us by Peter Pannu on Friday morning when he finally broke his silence and admitted players will be sold in January. What a horrible season!
Going into the game at the Reebok Stadium, many Bluenoses would have snapped your hand off for a point, albeit just to keep the momentum going somewhat. But with Cardiff approaching on New Year ’s Day, Blues are left with Jake Jervis as their only fit forward after Nikola Zigic’s sending off. It looks as if Lee Clark will have to rush either Marlon King or Peter Lovenkrands back from injury, probably half fit.
Is it all grim reading for Blues fans? Jack Butland is likely to play his last game for the club against Cardiff, Zigic may have kicked his last ball in a Blues shirt (if we can find someone to take on his extortionate contract) and Clark will not be able to bring in players other than a couple on loan, if finances allow. But still, we are seven points above the Championship’s bottom three and a win against Cardiff (no matter how unlikely) will see us just below mid table.
Despite a start where Blues did their best to impersonate the walking dead- they went in front through Zigic who headed in Chris Burke’s cross. Only eleven minutes on the clock and lady luck seemed to be smiling on us at last. It was a tad harsh on Dougie Freedman’s men who controlled large parts of the game, not just the early stages.
Clark opted for a five-man midfield, which he favours away from home, with Hayden Mullins, Callum Reilly and Jonathan Spector in the middle. The latter did not look fit and shouldn’t have played. Maybe a sign of the hand in which Blues have been dealt? Wade Elliott was on the bench, he could have provided a better, fitter option.
What does the future hold for Butland? Indeed, the club have confirmed that he may need to be sacrificed, but does he want to play first team football? If so, there’s no point in going to Liverpool. Somehow, I cannot see him remaining here after January. Wouldn’t it have been better to play Colin Doyle or David Lucas today, at least they will have game time under their belt when either one of them becomes our first choice in a few weeks?
Despite not being a massive threat going forward, Zigic was putting himself about and causing Bolton’s defence problems and the midfield and back-four seemed organised. That was until Marcos Alonso levelled the game in the 27th minute. He had no trouble getting beyond his marker to head past Butland.
If that was a kick in the teeth then what happened six minutes later, when Chung-Yong Lee strode past the immobile Steven Caldwell to put the Trotters ahead, was a disaster. In terms of how the season has gone, Blues haven’t won back-to-back games yet and until today, hadn’t scored in the opening 15 minutes of any game. No consistency, nothing to get excited about.
The defensive performances we have seen this term have been utterly shambolic at times, only three clean sheets proves that. Oh, how important it is that we hold on to Curtis Davies. Caldwell looks abysmal; Pablo Ibanez is ok at best, but not the answer. Selling Davies would be pressing the self-destruct button.
When Burke has been as ineffective as this, when a game needs a spark, calling on Nathan Redmond, who has been equally as poor this campaign, doesn’t offer much optimism. Rob Hall was pushed up top in support of Zigic and Elliott, who earlier replaced the lagging Spector, added legs, but unfortunately, not invention.
Hall forced a save out of Adam Bogdan before the game was sealed, with a cherry on top, for Bolton. A deep free-kick was handled by Caldwell and the resulting penalty was dispatched by former Albion man Keith Andrews. Game, set and match.
What little attacking threat Blues had was ended by Zigic’s petty sending off. His first yellow card was for encroachment and his second, just one minute later, was for a needless foul. Both were stupid and showed a lack of discipline, especially given the lack of attackers at Clark’s disposal.
Jake Jervis replaced Reilly late on, but the game was over before then. How big was the three points at Barnsley? Massive. Blues, now 20th in the league, have to find some level of consistency, even to finish mid-table. 2012 has ended on a low, 2013 doesn’t promise much either.
Blues ratings- *BUTLAND 6. Robinson 6. Caldwell 5. Davies 6. Hancox 5. Burke 5. Mullins 5. Reilly 6. Spector 5. Hall 6. Zigic 6… SUBS USED- Elliott 5. Redmond 5. Jervis n/a.
Match report by Rob Wildey.