Two equalising goals made in Croatia in the end were good enough to give us aÂ point made in Lancashire. Not afraid of producing a stereotype, on a windswept afternoon in front of a two thirds full stadium (early Christmas shopping?) Bolton produced a typically muscular performance which had us in trouble from the third minute when Gardner drove in after a long throw from Samuel was treated like fire in the hole by our makeshift centre half pairing of Bassong and Huddlestone.Â
Led admirably by Kevin Davies, (a man who clearly out-Heskeyâ€™s Heskey in my opinion and I donâ€™t understand why heâ€™s not given a go for England if thatâ€™s the sort of player Capello wants to lead the line), the home teamâ€™s energy and formation, 4-5-1 creating a crowded midfield, was too much for us for most of the game. It wasnâ€™t until Defoe replaced Keane (and probably just as significantly, Muamba had been swapped for McCann) that we were the better team.Â
We were definitely second best during the opening half an hour and only some last ditch defending and smart goalkeeping kept the deficit down to one. Weâ€™d come slightly more into the game after twenty five minutes or so and were crossing the halfway line meaningfully occasionally when after half an hour Palacios knocked a diagonal ball to the far post where Crouch won a knock down and with great technique Kranjcar buried his first Spurs goal from 14 yards. We didnâ€™t deserve the equaliser, but hey.
Half time came and went and we appeared to do precisely nothing to try and change things. To be fair we did look slightly less shell shocked in the second half but there was no point when the game wasnâ€™t being played at their tempo or even in their style as we resorted to hoofs out of defence in the direction of Crouch who battled manfully against Knight and Cahill with little support from Keane.
Their second goal came after 68 minutes when good work from Lee and Cohen unbuttoned the right hand side of our defence whilst Assou-Ekotto checked his own pockets on the other side and Davies got in front of him to head in. Defoe was now on and adding quality and running to the response. Crouch hit the bar and from the resulting corner Vedran Corluka got free at the far post to send a precise and perfect header back across goal and into the far corner. Also his first goal for us, and one that produced a â€˜interestingâ€™ stat – every outfield player on the pitch had now scored for us this season. As I told you, fascinating.
We now started causing them problems consistently for the first time in the game. We hadnâ€™t got rid of their threat though, indeed we seemed to continue to encourage it by giving away free kicks in our half, something weâ€™d been doing all game long.
In the end though both teams held out. Much of Boltonâ€™s play was aerial (why are teams allowed to take so long about taking long throws?) but much also was just good one touch give and go from Lee, Gardner, Cohen, Taylor and Davies. Not for the first time this season we looked lightweight and unable to impose ourselves on the game for long periods. Thereâ€™ll be lots of â€œweâ€™d have lost this game last yearâ€ type comments, which is fair enough. Iâ€™d prefer a â€œwe never looked like losingâ€ type comment though next season.
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