Everyoneâ€™s been a bit puzzled by how much Niko Kranjcar has been ignored this season and in general, when he has played he hasnâ€™t done himself any favours, even given the usual disclaimers surrounding him being played out position. His left foot screamer in injury time to win this game though reminded everyone what heâ€™s capable of and given the lack of goals in the rest of the side, might be the trigger to Redknapp using him more.
Another good win and as at Blackburn, one that owed more to grit and keeping going than style and panache. Without being anywhere near our best we got the better of Bolton by eventually making more of the few chances created and overcoming the concession of another soft goal. Smacking the ball straight at Gomes appears to be a reasonable tactic at getting the ball past him at the moment, this time he let Sturridgeâ€™s shot squirm under his body to let Bolton back into the game shortly after half time.
Weâ€™d taken the lead after a short period of typical Clattenburg comedy when he awarded two penalties in a few minutes, though his best was saved for later in the first half when he threw a paddy when trying to get the players to take part in a drop ball. Van der Vaart dispatched both spot-kicks but was forced to retake the second due to encroachment. He missed the retake but of course there was no chance of Twattenburg ordering yet another kick despite a similar amount of encroachment from the Bolton players on this one. When a third pen was awarded it was Defoe who grabbed the ball, but we were saved the familiar agony that results when this happens as the linesman had already flagged for a Crouch offside.
So we stuttered to half time playing narrowly and nervously. Van der Vaart was nominally on the right but there were often huge gaps in front of Corluka that Bolton didnâ€™t take advantage of thankfully. The Dutchman went off at half time which meant that given the absence of Modric and Bale, we were left without all three of our traditional talismans. Steven Pienaar was sent on to the fill the void with Lennon moving back to his natural home on the right and we looked better balanced. Pienaar did well, nearly scoring himself and also getting Defoe into space with some much quicker passing than weâ€™re often used to seeing.
After they scored Bolton didnâ€™t threaten again too much with Kevin Davies clattering into people ineffectively and only Sturridge looking lively. But they also coped generally with any pressure we applied. The closest we came to retaking the lead was when Jenas hit the post from a free kick which heâ€™d won himself.
Palacios had been having a good game but was swapped for Kranjcar with 12 minutes left as Redknapp went for broke. Pavlyuchenko had already replaced Crouch. Harry was rewarded when after the added time board had been shown the Croatian accepted a touch from Pav, slipped past Knight and absolutely leathered a left foot drive into the top right hand corner, the ball flicking Jaaskelainanâ€™s hand on the way. Cue relieved celebrations from the crowd and players with Kranjcar doing well not to stick two fingers up towards the bench.
It was a valuable win but better news is needed from the physio room if weâ€™re to build on this run of one defeat in fourteen games, we certainly need an excitement free international break ahead of Sunderland next weekend.
Have something to tell us about this article?